Over the years I have had to get creative in ways to punish my children when they do wrong. There were periods where the kids seemed to always be getting themselves in trouble. During these times the traditional punishment forms had little impact on them. They simply got numb to not being able to watch TV or do their favorite activity. Although a challenge, those times led me to find some forms of punishment that worked well and often had great side effects.
Written forms of punishment
Sometimes old school approaches work best. After I saw some homework brought home with horrible penmanship, I considered ways to help the boys improve the legibility of their writing. They were in trouble a lot at this time, so new discipline forms were also on my mind. I thought back to my childhood and recess periods spent writing “I will not…” on a chalkboard a number of times. Yes, this is straight out of the opening to the Simpsons and was a staple of my early years. I had an epiphany and combined practice writing with a more obvious punishment. I started to have the boys write sentences as punishment.
This is great because you can always tack on more sentences. Unfortunately, it is one where moderation is required. I think each of the older boys hit four digit numbers of sentences at various times. On the other hand, their writing did become more legible and I even added some new words to their vocabulary. I was known to throw in words like abscond, vacillate, and other uncommon words. Their ACT scores thanked me years later.
Besides vocabulary and spelling, this is a great punishment to teach almost any topic. You can make them copy almost any text and help their memory. Scripture verses are commonly used, but you can always throw in the declaration of independence, Gettysburg Address, or even Grandmas cookie recipe. Of course, familiarity breeds contempt and anything you use as a punishment may turn the child against that later in life. Grandma’s cookies may not taste as good when you have flashbacks to writing the recipe every time you take a bite.
Physical forms of punishment
Another classic form of punishment is anything the requires physical effort. I started out with the military approach of push-ups. This was great because it was quick and immediate. Drop and give me twenty was an easy way to provide immediate negative feedback on things like punching your brother or talking back. Of course, I worried a little as my kids went from struggling to get in one push-up to being able to knock out dozens quickly. This did not work as well for long term issues like not doing homework and bringing home bad grades. Drop and give me twenty for every missed question or something like that was not practical.
Task-based forms of punishment
That leads to annoying chores and manual labor around the house. With multiple children, this may be the best form of punishment I used. I always had work to do around the house and much of it was manual labor and not pleasant. I could assign tasks like sweeping, cleaning toilets, matching socks, folding laundry, and roughly any other tasks that usually lived on my personal to-do list. These forms of punishment can be great for group events when you have kids in the same stage of life like middle and high school ages. Just rack up all the punishment worthy actions of the week and then combine the punishments into Saturday morning cleaning or something like that. If everyone had a good week then this can easily be converted to a reward after the work is done. An afternoon at the movies or trip to a park
These forms of punishment can be great for group events when you have kids in the same stage of life like middle and high school ages. Just rack up all the punishment worthy actions of the week. Then combine the punishments into Saturday morning cleaning or something like that. If everyone had a good week then this can easily be converted to a reward after the work is done. An afternoon at the movies or trip to a park can be a great reward. I think this approach led to us purchasing a Wii for the family.
Trial and Error
Every child is unique and thus your approach to discipline will have to vary. Do not get caught up in the age-old accusation “you treat them different from me.” Yes, you do, and you should. Punishment for one child is a joy to another. If you need more support for this idea it was scientifically proven in the story of the brer rabbit (AKA the tar baby). Ok, my science may be suspect, but the logic is sound. Simply beating a child may be a good form of physical exercise, but a parent that thinks outside the box in considering crime and punishment will likely be rewarded with better-adjusted children.
In the end, it is about teaching and leading rather than demanding and punishing. If you lead with love through any form of punishment you will find it far more effective. Thus, punishment is just another tool in your parenting toolbox. Try some of these ideas if you want to review some other options.