Thursday Stuff

Girl Talk Thursday (GTT): Parental Punishment

Parental Punishments (What you Endured, Hated, But Would Use Now!)

This post is in no way meant to spark a debate or incite anger, it’s simply an informative post to let you know what I did, and how I handle, disciplining my children. I’m not suggesting that my way is best for YOUR family – everyone is different. All I’m saying is that it worked for OUR family and considering our boys are pretty decent, respectful human beings and have stayed out of trouble thus far (knock on wood), I’d like to think our discipline methods have been successful.

Either that, or I’m completely delusional and my boys have in fact, completely and totally pulled the wool over my eyes.

I’ll stick to my version – ignorance is bliss, yaddayaddayadda.

I grew up with the “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality. My mom used a fly swatter on us when we misbehaved. My dad didn’t have to do anything, I was terrified of him. All he had to do was raise his voice and that caught my attention.

Kevin said his mom used a coat hanger on him (ouch! I bet that hurt), and his dad used a belt.

Neither one of us really remember getting spanked very often when we were kids. (Which is really weird for me, considering what a brat I was. Seriously. It’s amazing my folks didn’t ship me off to Antarctica. I would have. They probably WISHED they had).

We used a wooden spoon on our boys. I remember reading, in one of the HUNDREDS of parenting books that I devoured in the boys’ early years, that using an instrument, other than your hand, would help make the discipline a little less … personal? I’m not sure that’s the word I want, but it seems right.

Whenever I had to get the wooden spoon out, I would only give them one or two swats on the leg, not the diaper (it was like swatting a pillow, they didn’t feel it) and that’s all it took to get their attention to show them that I meant business.

I always gave them one warning. And if they continued with the behavior after that warning, I simply got the spoon out and swatted them.

I was consistent. And I think that’s CRUCIAL when you’re disciplining your children. Kids are smart little buggers. And they will push your buttons and see how far they can push you – it’s human nature to stretch boundaries like that.

I honestly don’t remember having to swat them very often. Again, I was consistent with them, so they knew I meant business and I wouldn’t hesitate to take out the wooden spoon. I didn’t put up with nonsense – period. They knew the rules. They knew what was expected of them. Period.

It’s so important to make sure kids KNOW what the rules are to begin with. You would be surprised how many parents I’ve observed that didn’t tell/teach their children what the boundaries were to begin with and just sort of dived into a disciplinary action. (Speaking about my experience with play groups.)

“Tommy. If you leave the yard, you will get into trouble.” And then walk little Tommy around the yard and SHOW him where the boundaries were so he would know what constituted punishment if he didn’t comply.

I also made very sure that my boys understood WHY they got into trouble. After they calmed down (and I calmed down), I sat them down and asked them why they got into trouble. I was shocked that there were times when they didn’t know. We would then talk about why they got into trouble and what they could have done differently to avoid getting into trouble in the future.

I think, all too often, parents (myself included), just assumed the kids knew what they did wrong. That wasn’t always the case.

When the boys started school, and were too old to be swatted (I knew this by the smirk on their faces, which only served to make me even more angry – and they knew that), I started sending them to their rooms. I know experts say you really shouldn’t do that because then they associate their rooms with punishment, but I had to get them out of my sight. I have a pretty hot temper, and I found the best thing for both of us, was separation. Out of sight, out of the crosshairs.

They found something in their rooms to calm them down and I had the silence needed to get myself under control. Again, after we both calmed down, I would talk with them about what made me angry and what they did to get into trouble.

Sometimes (and more often than I would like to admit), it was a misunderstanding on MY part. I jumped to conclusions and jumped down their throats when they didn’t deserve it. When those times happened, I owned up and apologized. I think it was important for them to see that I was human and made mistakes, too. I also learned to cool my jets and not jump to conclusions.

Too often.

When they reached middle school, (and even now), the most effective way to get their attention was to take their computers / video games away from them. They have both put that punishment to the test.

And it wasn’t because they misbehaved, per se, but rather because they started blowing off school.

School, in our household, is number one priority with us. It’s their job. And we fully expect them to give 110% of their attention and efforts into doing the best they can. (Which I’ve learned, the hard way, doesn’t necessarily mean straight A’s. Some subjects … well, we can’t all be experts at everything, right?)

When they started middle school, they blew off assignments. This lowered their grade. And because they blew off their assignments, they didn’t know enough to do well on the tests, so they flunked tests and that made their overall grades go down even further.

They tried to use the whole, “but my teacher stinks at his/her job!” and various other excuses and though that may have been the case (in fact, it was a few times), it was no excuse. There would be times when they would be forced to work with someone who didn’t explain it well enough. Or wasn’t knowledgeable enough or … whatever. They had a brain, they could figure it out on their own. They just had to take the initiative and do it. AND ask for help when needed.

“Life is hard. Get used to it, kid. No one is going to hold your hand through this stuff.”

Harsh? Perhaps. But it’s reality. And we’re nothing if not realistic.

Dude’s grades got so bad, that simply banning him from playing wasn’t enough. I suspected he was sneaking onto his computer at night, so Kevin and I removed his computer from his room. We took the whole thing out.

He was without a computer and wasn’t allowed to play video games, (he wasn’t even allowed to watch TV, our rationale being, now he had plenty of time to study and bring his grades up) for eight weeks. That’s the amount of time it took him to get his grades back to an acceptable level.

And that was the ONLY time we’ve had to physically take his stuff away from him. He’s been grounded from the computer and video games a few times since then, but not very often. That eight weeks were HELL for him – he’s been an excellent student ever since.

We’ve had to ground Jazz from the computer and video games a few times, but he saw what Dude went through and didn’t want the same thing to happen to him, so he never allowed himself to reach that level.

But again. We were consistent. The computer and video games were meant to be entertainment – NOT their life. They were more than welcome to use them when their real life work was done.

And we still hold true to that mantra now.

One last bit of advice – watch the yelling. When you yell all the time, the kids simply ignore you. Try and keep your voice at an easy, normal level (I know, easier said than done) so that when you do yell at them, it really gets their attention. It also shows that you mean business.

Again. All of this is meant to inform you. I’m not suggesting you do what I did, I’m simply saying these methods have worked for us. Children are different; kids respond to different tactics. The challenge, of course, as a parent, is to find the method that works for you, and your child.

Good luck.