After working with kids for forty years, I have seen more ways that parents punish kids than most people. As I began my career working at a residential treatment center for abused and neglected children, I will skip the torture thing and go right into the more typical punishments. This is fresh on my mind as I recently had a teenage boy who got caught stealing a big ‘ol iPhone 7. In addition to his school punishment, his parents added their own to the mix. Upon his return from school, he must sit at the kitchen table and, well, sit. After supper he continues to sit. One of the problems is: there is no limit to this punishment. He is on his second month. When I asked him what he must do in order to get off, he had no idea.
On the other end of the scale, a kid’s mother knew he was a bike thief from hell. The bicycle shop owner, a grizzled ex-biker, took the kid’s stolen bike from him and told him to have his mother come down to the shop to talk to him about the bike. She came down the next day with a loaded .357 pointed at his eye and took her son’s stolen bike back.
Another teen got into a fight and knocked the dog out of the other kid, necessitating an ER visit at the local hospital. Along with legal consequences and restitution, his permanently pissed off father “grounded” him. This grounding included taking his son’s bedroom door off its hinges, forbidding him to work on getting his driver’s license, and virtually not speaking to him….. FOR TWO YEARS!
So, what is the reason for punishing our kids? Most parents would agree it is to teach them they better not do that stupid shit again. So how much of our disgust, anger, embarrassment and disappointment do we factor into our punishments? If we are doing it right, the answer is: not much. We have to use our brains, not our anger to teach our kids.
There is very little idiot behavior from kids that I have not seen. Thus I suggest that parents consider the following:
- Keep punishments short term. This usually means days or a week (or two if you must). There’s always room to add on if junior is still acting the fool.
- Try to tie the punishments to the offense. In the first example of sticky fingered cell phone boy, you could find out what a used phone would cost (about $350), and have him do that much extra labor around the house and yard. At minimum wage, that’s a bunch of work. Keep track of the hours. You don’t have to pay him, but show him how hard it is to buy what he ripped off.
- DO NOT punish your kid out of anger. I mean, maybe it’s great therapy for the angry parent to enjoy continuously punish their kid, but man to man, I’ll tell you it’s chickenshit to enjoy hammerin’ a kid when the lesson learned is over.
- Don’t be too “proud” to ask for an opinion from someone who may know more. I’m a little sadly lame at building stuff, so I asked my friend for his ideas for a sturdy gate for my office. With his good ideas (and help), I’ve got it up. Getting ideas doesn’t mean obeying; it just means getting extra ideas.