Make the Punishment Fit The Crime

Apr 28, 2000

This is another one of those tough topics, Disciplining Your Child. I would like to start my editorial by stating that I am NOT an expert. My editorial here will be about how my husband and I have decided to discipline our two children; it is not to say that this is the correct or only way to discipline children in general. This editorial will be about what has worked in our home.

I will begin will a little background. I have two children, a boy, 11 and a girl, 8. My husband and I pretty much decided against spanking our children even though as children we were both spanked. We did decide though that a swat on the bottom once in awhile to get their attention would be okay. This was pretty much for when they were too young to understand what we were saying. Then we decided that once they were older, we would make the punishment fit the crime, and if that were impossible, we would take privileges and toys away and ground them if need be.

I have to say, no two kids are alike. What works for my son does not necessarily work for my daughter. Meaning, taking television privileges away from son does not work as effectively as taking them away from my daughter. Telling my son he cannot play with his Legos hurts him far more than taking the television away. However, my daughter would be more upset by taking away television privileges than taking away her Barbies. So we have learned there is no set rule as to what the punishment will be. We just pay close attention to what will mean more to each child and use that as our punishment if we have to take away privileges or toys.

My son was a very easy-going baby and toddler, we could tell him “no” and he would stop whatever he was doing. My daughter, on the other hand, we would have to tell her “no”, and physically remove her from the situation.

As they got older, we started implementing the “let the punishment fit the crime”, type of disciplining. This has worked well for us, there have been some cases where we haven’t been able to think of a punishment that fit a certain problem, and so we fell back to taking away privileges and grounding.

Here are some examples of crimes and punishments that have gone on in our household:

--My son was six and we got a note from his teacher stating that he had been throwing rocks while on the playground at school. After explaining to him why this was wrong, we gave him the punishment of going to the playground everyday after school for a week and picking up all the rocks he could to make the playground a safer place.

--My daughter was about five and she ripped the pages out of one of her books. It was a book with only about six pages, and one sentence on each page, so we made her make a new book by writing each sentence and tracing the pictures. We made her do this after we explained why we don’t rip up our books.

--As part of my children’s “nighttime routine”, they must clean up their rooms which means picking up their toys, make sure their dirty clothes are off the floor and in the hamper, etc. Mind you, they have done this since they were toddlers, so they know it is expected of them, however, for about a week, we noticed they just weren’t remembering to pick up. So my husband and I told them, tomorrow night, it will all be done or else, we will box up what is left on the floor and put it in storage for two weeks. Well, the following night, it came time to do nighttime routine and they both just “forgot” to pick up their toys, so my husband and I got the boxes, told them to follow us and proceeded to make them pack it all up. This really upset them. Now, when they start to “forget”, we remind them and they are right in there picking up.

--I guess it was a couple summers ago and they just had a really bad week, they kept bickering and just being really testy with each other. I normally try to let them work out their squabbles, but after a couple days of this, I found myself intervening more and more. It was really starting to bother me, so my husband and I came up with this punishment. We told them for one week, they were not to speak, play, or acknowledge each other. They were to pretend for that one week that they didn’t have a brother or sister. They thought it was great for about the first day or two. Then they realized that it was not fun not being able to talk or play together. They were great the rest of the summer! Now, they do bicker once in a while, but they seem to work it out fairly quickly.

--If you have read any of my other reviews, you will know the story about my daughter writing a note to a friend’s parents telling them basically that their daughter was selfish and mean. We made her right a note to the parent’s telling them she was the one being selfish and mean and then made her hand deliver it, apologize and tell them it would never happen again.

Okay, enough tales, the other thing my husband and I find very important in disciplining our children is following through. When we give them their punishment, we make sure to follow through even it if means we miss out on something. If to say, they are told no PlayStation for a week, that doesn’t mean that weekend when their cousin comes over, and plays PlayStation that they get to also. It also means that my husband or I will have to miss that trip to the zoo to stay home with the one being grounded. Fair, no, but as parents we want to teach our children that there are consequences to pay for their actions, and if that means teaching them a lesson by missing the outing, then so be it.

My husband and I also always make sure to praise the good behavior and always tell our children that we are so proud of them. We also tell them many, many times a day that we love them. We also remind them when they are NOT in trouble that we love them bunches and bunches even when we are angry about something they did. We do this so that when we do have to discipline, they know that it does not diminish our love for them. Makes accepting punishment a lot easier for them.

I will end this by saying, “this has worked for us thus far.” We have not reached the teenage years, so what works now may not work then.

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Member: Donna
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