maria montessori writes: “discipline must come through liberty.” discipline is not coerced quiet. it is not fearful stillness. it is movement towards something. perhaps the notion of “active discipline” captures the naturally occurring distinction between reinforcement and punishment – a distinction most eloquently made in the science of behavior analysis. one must put aside the commonplace definitions of these words in order to grasp their true depth.
reinforcement occurs when the future probability of a given behavior is increased after a particular consequence follows the behavior. for example, after tying her own shoelaces, a child is delighted by the appearance of her hand-tied bow and the chance that she will tie her shoe laces again increases.
punishment occurs when the future probability of a given behavior is decreased after a particular consequence follows the behavior. for example, after a child climb up a tall tree, her teacher scolds her and the chance that she will tree-climb again decreases.
both reinforcement and punishment result in learning but the former is certainly preferable because reinforcement results in moving towards; acquisition; growth.
though perhaps there are few who love the work of both maria montessori and b. f. skinner – biehus is inspired by both.