teach a lesson Punish in order to prevent a recurrence of bad behavior. For example, Timmy set the wastebasket on fire; that should teach him a lesson about playing with matches. This term uses lesson in the sense of “a punishment or rebuke,” a usage dating from the late 1500s. Also see learn one's lesson.
teach a lesson|lesson|teach
v. phr. To show that bad behavior can be harmful. When Johnny pulled Mary's hair, she taught him a lesson by breaking his toy boat.The burns Tommy got from playing with matches taught him a lesson.