Discipline Trouble

I hate punishing my kid.  Hate it.  I want to figure out a way to do it without making her feel hopeless.  I want to figure out a way to communicate love through punishment.  People who hit their kids probably think that sounds wacky.  I’ll admit it’s counterintuitive, but I feel like hitting her is counterintuitive, too, so love via punishment?  How’s that such a stretch?

I know we punish our kids because we love them.  Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.  I think I do it more because I don’t want to be embarrassed to have a kid who’s in jail at 17.  I tried to explain to her that I was punishing her because I didn’t want her to grow up and not know how to act and wind up in jail.

She’s presently grounded from TV and a lot of other fun stuff for two weeks.

I wanted to only give her a week of punishment, but then she argued and thrashed and moaned, and so I kept tacking punishments on to her one week of no TV.  She wound up with two weeks of no TV, no playdates, and two days (already served) of going to her room after school until supper.

She’s been pretty reasonable about it, and she mentions it often, so I can remind her that I’m punishing her for reasons that are in her best interest, instead of because I want to torture her and am just mean.

She has become somewhat stoical about it.  She’ll say, “I just really miss TV (sigh) I wish I wasn’t punished.”

“I wish you weren’t punished, too, Pearl.”

“How about if I do something nice every day?”

“Sorry P.  Still punished.”

“Maawwwwm!”

“Pearl, why are you punished?”

“Because I broke the towel thingy in the bathroom.”

“And?”

“You told me not to play on it and I didn’t listen.”

“Right.”

“Oh kaaaay. I guess I’ll just go to my room then.”

But when I first told her of the punishment, she told me she wanted to go live with grandma forever.  She even called grandma to ask if she could.  Grandma told her she could come for the weekend, but I said not till her punishment is over.

I talked to my mom about it later, and she said, “Pearl’s like you were.  You were hard to punish.  You would just go play happily in your room.  You didn’t care much about TV.  It was really frustrating.”

I don’t remember being punished aside from spanking until I was a teenager, and at that point there was no precedent so it was too late.

I don’t remember a single instance of what I was spanked for.

I want a better system that that, but I don’t know where to find one.  She’s pretty uncomfortable with the present arrangement, so I guess it’s working for now, but what happens when she’s good to go read in her room for hours on end.  I can’t ground her from books, not and retain any self-respect.

Ideas, other moms and dads?  Books to recommend?

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Author: April Line Writing

Writing about whatever the f*ck I want.

2 thoughts on “Discipline Trouble”

  1. I don’t have an answer – mostly because I feel I’ll equipped to handle the 2 year old I have and feel like the world’s worst mom whether I punish him or not – yay for Mom guilt. But I read a book when I was pregnant (I don’t remember which one it was. I probably read 50 because I had – and have – no idea what I was doing). It talked about matching punishments directly with infractions. For instance, it gave the example of a punishment for ruining an item would be to put a dollar value to the item and having the child work it off, of course not leaving time for other fun activities that would be taking place normally like favorite tv shows or video games, etc.. Or if the infraction was something that hurt a sibling, the child would then do kind things for the sibling, same scenario. It was kind of a utilitarian approach to discipline where everything had value and punishments weren’t arbitrary but were a way to repair the value taken by the infraction – no more, no less. So instead of seeing it as parent-initiated, punishments are kind of predetermined in a sense and kids then know that any damage (emotional or literal) will be fixed by them, whatever that entails, not because “Mom said so” but just because that’s the way the world works. Interesting theory. I won’t lie, I’ve never tried it, but I have a 2 year old who is disciplined far less than he should be anyway, but its on my “I will definitely do this when my child is born” list, that to date has only really taught me that I was very optimistic.

  2. I don’t have any kind of expertise on child psychology, but I think that probably the reason that punishment (much like the criminal justice system) is often ineffective in changing behavior is that the punishment usually doesn’t really make the kid think about why what they did was wrong. For example, in this case, you really want Pearl to respect a simple concept: valuing other peoples’ feelings about misusing their property.

    The punishment I am going to suggest would work better if you did it before she broke the thing, because you want her to know she is being punished for being disrespectful to you by repeatedly doing something you asked/told her not to do. (That is, she is not being punished because she actually broke the thing *this time* … a crime is wrong regardless of whether or not you are caught.)

    In the heat of the moment, instead of choosing a punishment right then and there, simply let her know that you are upset with her for not listening, and that you are going to have to think of an appropriate punishment. Then don’t mention it again to her. Instead, think of something creative that relates the problem you perceive with her behavior back to her perspective. For example, find something of hers that she values (not something super-important, but something she would be really annoyed if you broke) and start using it in some bizarre and arbitrary way that could potentially render it useless. When she says “Hey don’t do that!” or “What are you doing?”, stop doing what you are doing and say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you don’t like it when I do that.” Then a day later, do it again and respond the same way when she tells asks you to stop. Rinse and repeat. In all other aspects of life act totally normal. Let her keep guessing for a week or so why you are doing this to her. Either she will figure it out, or you can finally stop (after a week or so) and tell her why. Either way, I bet she won’t forget that it is really frustrating when people won’t stop messing with your stuff when you’ve asked them kindly not to.

    I think this style of punishment would be more fun, more reasonable, and more effective. Plus when she gets older she will also have all these funny stories to tell about how weird her mom was when she was trying to make a point. It’ll be really cool. 🙂

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