Differences Between Punishment And Limit (in Children’s Education)

Key concepts in early childhood education. Do you know what exactly differentiates them?

differences between punishment and limit

Something basic to facilitate coexistence is trying to maintain our behavior around parameters that we call social norms. If adults sometimes perceive these parameters as arbitrary and illogical; it is even more common for boys and girls to have difficulties assimilating and acting on them.

During the process (that of recognition and respect for norms), adults are key characters, since it is largely through us that they learn what they are expected to do and what they are not. Specifically, our influence has to do with the way we teach what the limits are and what happens if they are not respected.

In this article we will see some differences between limits and punishments, as well as one of the proposals of modern pedagogy to maintain a respectful educational style that at the same time transmits to the child some guidelines necessary to live together.

Authority or negotiation?

Since educational models began to be “child-centered”, early childhood education has moved from a model of authority (where adults were the ones who gave the orders and the children simply followed them); to a model based on negotiation, where the child’s own need must be taken into account and not only that of the adult.

In this sense, when using concepts such as norms, discipline, limits and authority in early childhood education, we generally do not speak of an authoritarian model that suggests domination, but of a model that seeks coexistence, respect, tolerance and responsibility over children. own acts.

However, the model based on negotiation has generated some difficulties, not only for children but also for caregivers and educators, since it sometimes becomes a totally permissive and overprotective parenting style.

What does it mean to “set limits”?

Setting limits is necessary because in this way we teach children that they cannot do absolutely everything they want without considering how it affects other people.

This even helps to develop other skills, such as the recognition of one’s own limits and how others should or should not approach ; it can also help children recognize and set clear limits on long-term self-determination.

In practical terms, setting a limit consists of specifying to the child when, how and where a behavior is not allowed; and when, how and where it is allowed.

For example, when young children are in the process of understanding risky behaviors, it is common for them to approach dangerous spaces and do things like stick their fingers in electrical sockets, put their hand on the stove or stove, run to where there are cars. , etc.

In addition to taking the necessary and classic measures such as covering the plugs, it is also useful to indicate to them in firm, short sentences and simple words, that “not here”. It is also important to set clear limits regarding the approach of others, especially so that they distinguish their personal space and which is the space of others.

Finally, setting limits is not the same as defining or even imposing rules, which do not necessarily facilitate coexistence but which do correspond to the values ​​of each context. For example, getting good grades or not sleeping after 10:00 pm is a norm that varies according to the dynamics that exist in different spaces.

Differences between limit and punishment

After setting a limit, what follows is the child’s response. Generally, boys and girls do not respect the limit at the first indication, although it may also happen that they do not do so either to the second or to the third, before which one more response from the adult follows.

Next we will know the differences between limits and punishments.

1. The limit is only the indication, the punishment is the answer

The limit is only the indication, the punishment is the response to the child’s behavior. The limit then is the specification of what is not allowed and the punishment is the response of the adult, once the child has not respected that specification. Punishment is often charged with emotions such as anger, so it is more of an adult’s response to their release, which has little or even negative effect on the child’s education and discipline.

2. The limit anticipates a consequence, the punishment does not

The limit anticipates the consequence, the punishment is the unanticipated consequence. Being a specification, the limit makes the child recognize certain rules, which he may or may not respect. Punishment is the adult’s response that is not anticipated (it is arbitrarily given by the adult).

3. The punishment is not consistent with the behavior or the limit

The main characteristic of punishment is that it has no relation or logic to the child’s behavior and neither to the limit that has been set. For example, when television viewing is denied due to inappropriate behavior at school.

How to establish logical consequences instead of punishments?

The concept of “consequence” applied in education has many of its antecedents in the philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and pedagogue who laid the foundations for the development of a whole psychopedagogical method that is currently very popular.

Based on her studies, Montessori realized that boys and girls are capable of disciplining and regulating themselves; But this is a process that is largely achieved through accompaniment and guidelines generated by adults.

Thus, he comes to the conclusion that we must convey to boys and girls that behaviors have natural and logical consequences. For example, if they walk without paying attention to nearby objects, they can hit each other (a natural consequence).

Or for example, that if a child hits another, that other child will not only cry or get angry, but it is important that the child offer an apology (logical consequence). For these types of consequences, adult intervention is necessary.

So, a consequence, in addition to being what happens in response to any behavior, is also a guideline that allows us to recognize or anticipate what can happen when crossing or ignoring a limit.

By allowing the consequence to be anticipated, what we promote is the child’s self-regulation ; and that the adult no longer depends on anger to facilitate it, because the child relates her behavior to the consequence, which will allow her to avoid it later.

Likewise, it is important that the child not only learns how he should not behave, but how he should; that is, give her an alternative tool to satisfy her need (for example, asking for things or expressing her anger, rather than hitting).

Characteristics of a logical consequence:

The consequences and limits are not recipes that can be applied equally to all children, they vary according to the needs and characteristics of both the context and the caregivers or educators, as well as the child’s own development.

In line with the above, we are going to list some important things about how a logical consequence is, which may be useful depending on the case:

    1. Immediate : It occurs at the time of the behavior, not two weeks or months later, when the child no longer remembers what he did or is used to the fact that this behavior is allowed; because in addition, if a lot of time passes, it is more difficult to understand what the alternative is.
    1. Safe : Accomplish what we anticipate (for example, do not anticipate that there will be no recess time if we know that in the end we will give recess time). We must be sure and sure that it is within our power to facilitate a logical consequence.
    1. Coherent : The logical consequences are related to the child’s behavior (for example in a classroom: “if you are playing at the time of studying, then you will have to work at the time we set aside to play”; instead of “if you are playing at the time of work, you withdraw from class ”). As for the behaviors that occur at school, it is important that they have a consequence right there; do not apply them at home if they have nothing to do with it.

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