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My sister and I are in a disagreement about how we discipline our kids. I am not cruel to my kids, but I am strict. My wife is a little easier with the kids then I am, but she’s not a wimp. My sister used to like to do those silly “time outs” for a couple of minutes. Now that her kids are older, she might send them to their room, kill a weekend privilege, or sometimes just talk to them. We are not spankers, but if our kids screw up, they’ll know they’ve been punished. You seem to write a lot on your web site about parenting, so I thought I would get your opinion.
Dear Priddy People,
Actually, I have a lot to say about parenting and discipline. 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. Another problem 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 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, cocked it, 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 stuff 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.
- Give the kid a workable way to get off of grounding. Also: see above.
- 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 wrong to enjoy hammerin’ a kid because you’re still pissed off.
- Don’t be too “proud” to ask for an opinion from someone who may have some extra ideas. I’m, sadly, a little 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.
Being a good disciplinarian doesn’t just mean being tough, it means teaching your kid right from wrong. Do it like a good mother or father.
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John Sommer has been a therapist since 1977 and has been providing counseling services at his Brownwood facility since 1987. John specializes in assisting clients with a wide range problem areas such as child and adult issues, family, social and emotional issues in juveniles, relationships, and depression. He also works with non-problem areas including prenuptial counseling, marriage enhancement and assertive training. To submit questions for “Hey John” please email: JohnSommerCounseling@gmail.com