The sole purpose of punishment in terms of behaviour theory is simply to stop or extinguish a behaviour. The dictionary definition is “the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.”
What does that mean, imposing a penalty as retribution for an offense???
A well known example is getting a ticket for speeding or running a red light.
It is an impersonal response to a behaviour with the purpose of changing it. It is supposed to inflict some fear, but only for the consequence, never the issuer of the punishment, as “modern” dog training would have you believe. The informal definition of punishment is “rough treatment or handling inflicted on or suffered by a person or thing.” This is the emotional response.
Healthy boundaries require the use of punishment to ensure they are respected. A parent will yell and may even grab their child’s hand before they touch a hot stove. They are attempting to create a boundary so the child isn’t seriously hurt.
When punishment is given in anger, frustration, or as revenge, it becomes mistreatment that is harmful.
When punishment is given in anger, frustration, or as revenge, it becomes something different. It becomes mistreatment that is harmful. If that same parent were to yell, grab the child’s hand and put it on the stove angrily to “teach them a lesson” it would most certainly be considered abuse and the child would not only be scarred physically, but emotionally as well. They would lose a lot of trust for that parent too.
Healthy punishment does the opposite. When I teach clients to punish their dogs’ unwanted behaviour, I do so with the utmost care and respect for the dog, and the relationship. It is never excessive, and it always ends when the unwanted behaviour stops.
I hope that has cleared up some misconceptions for you!