Understanding what discipline is and how to maintain a warm, loving relationship.

Learning goals

  • Understand the difference between discipline and punishment.
  • Use a fair and firm approach to parenting.
  • Keep your relationship warm and loving.

Understand terms

Sometimes people can get the words ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ mixed up, and see them as having the same meaning. Find out from the group if they have any ideas about the difference between the two.

  • Discipline is about guiding and learning.
  • Punishment, on the other hand, happens when someone is made to suffer for an offence.

Children explore and experiment to find out about the world and their place in it. They climb, taste, poke, touch, pull apart and ask a million questions to learn about the world around them, and to explore where the boundaries are.

  • Whānau help guide this exploration by making sure children are safe, and by giving them new things to learn about. This helps children to develop the qualities and skills they need as they grow into adults.

Guidance, or discipline, is most effective in a warm and loving relationship where the child feels supported and secure.

Punishment occurs when adults believe that children need a bit of suffering to learn life’s lessons.

Share experiences of discipline

Discuss as a group, or in pairs:

  • What do you remember about growing up and how your behaviour was managed?
  • Did your whānau use discipline, punishment or both?
  • What effect did it have?
  • Did it help you behave better?

Give copies of the Tākai booklets The World of Under-fives and Thinking about parenting out.

  • Ask them to look at pages 5-6 in The World of Under-fives and 2-3 in Thinking about parenting and discuss in pairs.
  • Invite each pair to share their thoughts with the bigger group.

Children might change their behaviour because of remembering pain, shame or suffering felt on a previous experience. However, this is more likely to be the result of fear than their growing understanding of what is expected of them, or a sense of responsibility.

  • Do you remember how your parents disciplined you?
  • Do you remember how your parents punished you?
  • From your childhood experiences, what have you learned about managing your own child’s behaviour?
  • Does baby’s other parent share similar views to you?
  • What have you noticed with other parents and children?

In pairs, discuss these questions:

  • When we have to deal with our kid’s misbehaviour, what are we trying to achieve?
  • Are we trying to achieve short-term or long-term goals?
  • How would you describe the differences?

Share the answers with the larger group.

Discuss discipline and relationships

How we repair our relationship with our kids after disciplining is an important part of the process.

  • Reconnecting after there’s been conflict is sometimes called ‘rupture and repair’.
  • Making it right between you is key to your ongoing relationship. Sometimes it might mean apologising.

Ask the group:

  • What are your thoughts about getting kids to say sorry?
  • Is it genuine? Does it matter?
  • How have you felt when you’ve been asked to say sorry to someone?
  • What do you think about apologising to your kids?
  • How do you think it makes them feel?

Use the resources listed below to guide your discussions. Keep reinforcing the 6 principles and the power of positive parenting.


Tākai resources

The world of under-fives booklet [PDF, 9.8 MB]

Thinking about parenting booklet [PDF, 11 MB]

Order free printed resources(external link)

Related articles

Discipline and role models

Positive discipline and mana

Thinking about parenting

Staying calm with kids