- To teach them they sure as hell better not do that again.
- To teach them to respect the rules, and us (the parents) as well.
- Because they were disrespectful, and we are plenty pissed off, they’re screwed.
- To teach them proper accountability for their actions / behaviors.
- To teach them right from wrong.
- Because you don’t know what to do, you keep re-running the same punishment over and over.
- You’re lousy at discipline, and you don’t want them to hate you, so you don’t do anything.
There are still a few choices not listed, but these will suffice. I deal with children and teenagers, and have for a vast majority of my career. I have observed a wide variety of errors from both the kids and their parents. For example:
*William took his father’s truck without his permission. He left at 10:30pm, and returned at 2:00am. His Dad was up, and more than unhappy. His punishment was grounding him for six months (so far), not letting him get his driver’s license and emotionally shutting him off. Using the above choices, it would appear Pops was invoking #1, and #3.
*Johnny’s report cards were heinous. He clearly wasn’t involved in any type of educational pursuit. Behavior was acceptable, but his work (and grades) were non-existent. His punishment, report card after report card was to “ground” him. No after school playing around, limited TV, and plenty of room time to “do his homework”. After four weeks would pass, his parents would somewhat forget the grounding and he’d be free for the remaining two weeks. Then, unfortunately, the next report card would arrive. By his account, this played out for twenty-four consecutive, six-week report cards. Numbers? Obviously #6 and maybe #1.
*Marybelle was practically a cellphone kleptomaniac. She didn’t need them, but she sure took them. Her parents had enough of her “psycho behavior” and, of course, grounded her. No phone, no activities, no money, and finally, no bedroom door. This yielded only temporary results. I thought the break in the thieving was probably because no one had tempted her with an unescorted cellphone. I believe the well meaning parents were trying to achieve punishment #5, but were invoking #’s 1 and 6.
What to do then, to teach our occasionally wayward children? First of all, there is rarely a magic cure. Teaching proper behavior and accountability is similar to teaching them reading, or math, or mechanics. It’s not a one-stop hop. You will not teach them in one easy lesson. The lessons, both negative and positive are ongoing. They are going to need to be shown the way plenty of times.
*So real rule #1 is to get your expectations in proper order. You are in this for the long run.
*Secondly, all punishments should be short term. An extended punishment accomplishes nothing, as the kid eventually forgets why they are being punished in the first place. It looks to them, and probably accurately, that the parent utilized #1 and #3.
*Third, if it’s possible, have the punishment fit the crime. Inappropriate web sites? You could take away the cellphone for a week, or every other day for a week, or give them their phone and disable their data for a week or two, etc., etc. Always check their history on their phone. Don’t forget real rule #1
*Fourth, remember the business advice: unrewarded good behavior ceases. You don’t have to have a party or shoot off fireworks when your child is improving, but a casual word like, “I really like what you have been doing” or “you are growing up nicely” counts for a lot.
*Lastly (although not really, as this subject is chock full of potential problems and solutions), ask for help. Now, as a counselor, this sounds like a self promo, but it’s not. It’s merely logical. If you are in an area graced with a lot of educational opportunities, and you wanted to learn Thai cooking, you’d look for a Thai cooking class. If you need inspiration in teaching children, ask for ideas. You don’t have to obey, but new ideas to consider in order to improve at anything is desirable. In teaching your kids, be clever, inspired and be grateful you have the opportunity to teach them right from wrong.
Now I think I need to look for a good Thai restaurant.