Friday 8 March 2013

Responsible Punishment

My husband and I are quite fortunate as our children rarely exhibit extremely bad behaviour. Apart from the occasional tantrum when they are tired, they are both mostly very well behaved children. Typically, a trip to the 'naughty' step, and depending on the situation, removing a toy/treat/tv is enough to let our girls know that their bad behaviour was unacceptable, and I can only think of one previous occasion, that eldest's behaviour has warranted more than the naughty step - although she was too small to comprehend why her actions were naughty.

Physical punishment is not the way we do things in our family but I think there comes a point when children do need to be punished more severely to learn the seriousness of their actions, and some situations occur which require more than the naughty step for the lesson to be learnt. Today, we find ourselves in the untrodden territory of having to punish, with a lesson behind the punishment.

You see, yesterday, eldest (6) did something incredibly irresponsible, which is quite out of character for her. At the end of a long day, I quickly popped into the local sorting office to collect a parcel. As it was a quick two minute job, I left the girls locked in the car as it was quicker, and safer than getting them out of the narrow spaces which were too narrow for me to undo their straps and get them out, and then crossing them over a busy car park. The sorting office has a glass fronted entrance, so I had an unrestricted view of the car. Youngest cannot get out of her straps, and eldest always stays in hers too.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, yesterday, eldest was tired from after-school activities and so didn't want to do as I had asked. She decided to wind down her window, climb out of window, and cross herself over a busy carpark - which is completely out of character for her. Through her actions, she placed herself in potential danger by climbing out of the window and crossing the road, and her sister in danger by leaving the window wide open with youngest exposed to potential stranger's. Now, I'm sure there is a school of thought that I shouldn't have left the girls in the car in the first place, but I know my children, and in that situation, assessing all of the dangers, they were safer in the locked car.

As a result of eldest's reckless behaviour, and because she put herself and her sister in danger, hubby and I both feel that her punishment warrants more than the naughty step, as it needs to reflect her bad choices, and so we have been trying to come up with a suitable punishment for her, which firstly punishes her bad behaviour, but also shows her how dangerous her actions were, to ensure she learns to be safer in the future.

Our strategy so far has been to punish her by removing her books and computer/tv access, and requiring some help with light chores around the house. We intend her to learn her lesson and think more carefully in the future, by asking her to write a cautionary tale about safety and danger (the kid loves writing). Having not been in this situation before, we are hoping that these measures will ensure she learns her lesson.

This punishment lark is all a bit of a minefield with parenting - and not one we are required to enter into very often, so I would love to know - especially from those with older kids, how do you responsibly demonstrate to your kids that their actions were unacceptable? - to ensure that they learn the lesson in the future?

Answers on a postcard please! (or perhaps the digital equivalent is answers on a comment!)


  1. It's so hard to parent these days isn't it without being judged. You sound like you are being firm but fair. If my son is naughty we always ban his technology time as this is what he enjoys the most. At the moment it seems to work thankfully!

    1. Thanks for commenting, technology time seems to be a popular option these days - and it does work!

  2. What I find with my children is that they always have a favourite toy of the moment (for my 13 year old it is her Blackberry!) and removal of that tends to be the nuclear option. I always follow through with something I've threatened, and the children know this by now so often the threat is enough and I don't have to go nuclear too often. Luckily like you my children are pretty good so it's not like this arises often. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for commenting Joanne. i agree - if you follow through the threats then often, the threat is enough - I can't imagine yours being naughty either!!!



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