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Why give a punishment? Because you are angry and it helps you vent? Because it evens the score? Because it'll make them too damn scared ever to do it again? These are all pretty abusive reasons to punish a submissive. As with most of the scene, punishment is about using something that people have negative preconceptions of in a positive way.
So how is punishment positive? Assuming you are a reasonably good Dom/me, your submissive really wants to do well and to please you. When he or she messes up - which we all do, from time to time - he or she will quite likely end up feeling bad about what they've done. They may worry that they'll do it again, they may feel guilty, that they've hurt you, that even though you tell them they're forgiven, you'll hold it against them in the same way everyone else dismissively tells them "It's OK" when they really mean anything but.
By always giving a consistent, well reasoned punishment, you can reassure them that they have paid for what they have done and it is forgiven. As they feel they have paid, they no longer need to feel guilty to themselves, or as though they "owe" you. So long as you consistently really do forgive after a punishment, they will be able to trust that they really are forgiven. Finally, it gives them a lesson to hold on to the next time they're tempted to do wrong - or in a dilemma, they can weigh up the need to break your rules against a reasonable consequence.
Agreement, In Advance
It's important that you and your submissive talk about punishment before the need arises. If it is left until he or she has done something wrong, they are missing out on the whole punishment as a deterrent from committing the act in the first place.
Discussing things in advance also gives you both the opportunity to set ground rules, limits and so on, while things are calm, rather than the heat of the moment. It gives you a chance to explain why it will be a benefit, so he or she will already have accepted it by the time the need arises. It also gives your submissive the chance to explain what limits they have regarding punishment. You may be surprised by the limits they have - often things that you assume are fine, as they do them happily in play, are not fine in punishment as it would associate bad memories with fun things.
It also makes it much easier to be consistent - knowing in advance that swearing at their Dom/me earns six hard smacks is much easier to deal with than suddenly getting yelled at and told they're going to get punished.
Consistency works both ways. While you should be consistent in how severe a given act's punishment is, you should also be consistent in punishing it. For all you may feel forgiving at the time, to not punish means that the next time you do, that punishment will seem all the more severe, unreasonable and inconsistent.
If you are angry, you should not be punishing them. You will almost certainly do things for your benefit, not theirs. Even if you feel your actions are reasonable, they will pick up on your anger and see it as abusive.
Don't even think of punishing while you're still angry - I can't stress this enough. The punishment should be relatively current (knowing that a punishment is coming can make it far more severe - useful if you intend it as such, but make sure you do) but equally, should never be done while angry. It is better to leave an act unpunished that punish in anger.
Discuss The Act
There is no point in punishing someone who doesn't feel they should be punished. After all, it should only be being done for their benefit and if they feel it is not, they will just resent the punishment, and, once again, you for giving it.
Explain what it is that they have done wrong and why it is wrong. By explaining that the act is wrong and what it was about the act that was wrong - how it hurts others, harms themselves, is a dissobedient act that shows them and you in a bad light, whatever - they can understand the concept of what is wrong and avoid doing it in the future - or at least understand why they will be punished if they do it again.
Often, a submissive will know they've done wrong but not why they did it. A large part of the benefit of a punishment is helping them understand why they did wrong so they can avoid it the next time. If they're left feeling powerless to avoid it happening again, they won't benefit, they'll just gain resentment.
Discuss The Punishment
Once your submissive understands why they are being punished and agrees that it is necessary, the next step is to agree to the form it should take. Just as their not understanding why they are getting punished causes resentment, so does giving them a form of punishment that they do not agree with.
Ideally you will have discussed punishment, in general, in the past, and have agreed some basic ground rules - types of punishment, severity of punishment, severity of acts, etc. This should provide the basis of the punishment you give but you should always be prepared to adjust the punishment depending on the circumstances regarding the individual act.
Ultimately, your submissive should understand why you think they deserve the particular form of the punishment, why it is as severe as it is, or why you think it should be more gentle than usual. Once they understand the punishment and agree with it, it is firmly something for their benefit.
Give Exactly What Was Agreed To
As always, consistency is important. That kinky sadistic side of you may discover that you're actually enjoying it, or the ever-loving, compassionate, can't bear to see them suffer side kicks in. Whatever happens, you've both agreed to this calmly, so don't let the heat of the moment take over.
Everything Is Forgiven
You absolutely must be able to forgive by the end of the punishment. Once they are punished, the act is all but forgotten. You do not bring it up to tease them, punish them, or anything else. By doing this, you will show them that, unlike the people who say things are fine when they clearly are not, your punishments really do absolve them of all guilt.
They also need to forgive themselves, which is often the hardest part. Seeing that you have forgiven them will make things much easier, as will having "paid" with the punishment. You need to make sure they have forgiven themselves and if not, offer them all of the support and encouragement that you can, to help them to.
Forms Of Punishment
The form a punishment can take is only limited by what your submissive finds difficult.
Pain, such as a spanking or flogging, is the most obvious form. It is immediate, you are probably well practiced in controlling it and it is the generally accepted form. You may choose to get creative, beyond spanking - if a specific body part failed, punish that part in a way that suits it. Be aware, also, that you run the risk of associating an unpleasant punishment with an activity that was previously enjoyed. That is not to say that pain is not sometimes appropriate; just be aware of the consequences.
Humiliation can work well, in the right circumstances. The important thing is that you want them to gain, not be damaged. If they failed to bare themselves quickly enough, or on your order before a friend, perhaps prolonged nudity at a play party would make a good punishment. Just make sure they come out of it knowing they've served their punishment as opposed to being left feeling worthless.
Denial can work too. If they came without permission, deny them the right to come again for a week, a month, whatever. Make it crueler and make them regularly bring themselves to the brink, then deny them. Equally, if they refuse to act in a way befitting a submissive, withdrawing yourself from them for a day or so, as a Dominant, can emphasize what they have done (be warned, this can be a very, very, severe punishment for some subs).
If you want to really make them think about what they have done, order them to think of their own, fitting punishment. This is a very harsh one as they'll worry that too light and they will displease you further, too harsh and they have to survive it. It does, as I said, force them to really think about what they've done.