Punishments are never “one size fits all.” The goal of punishment is to provide a learning lesson about behavior and consequence, and in order for the punishment to be successful, the type of punishment you choose must be appropriate for the offense. Sometimes, writing-based punishments can do more harm than good for your child’s behavior. Consider the pros and cons of writing sentences for punishment, and if you choose to issue this type of punishment, ensure the writing experience is constructive and beneficial to your child in some way.
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Some aspects of writing-based punishments can be beneficial for your child. Sentence-writing exercises promote fine motor skills and provide practice with spelling and handwriting. When a parent makes a child sit down in a quiet area and write for punishment, her focus and attention becomes occupied in a way that can prevent angry outbursts, temper tantrums and other misbehaviors that result from boredom or restlessness during unstructured time-outs.
If writing-punishments aren’t structured properly or are repeatedly used, they can send and reinforce negative messages about writing. Your child might begin to associate writing with punishment, which can hamper her motivation and enthusiasm for school writing. She might also neglect to see writing as a liberating, expressive form of communication and instead, view writing as unsatisfying “work.” According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress: 2011 Writing, and reported in the "Orange County Register," almost 75 percent of U.S. students have sub-par writing abilities. Children who are made to write sentences repeatedly aren’t learning how to develop their written language -- rather, they’re simply copying letters and words for a meaningless writing objective that doesn’t include the construction and expression of ideas through words, and they’re doing it begrudgingly, which can reinforce their reluctance to write for other purposes. Lastly, trying to reinforce good behavior -- by having your child write “I will remember to put away my toys when I’m finished playing,” for example -- is simply ineffective, according to the International Child and Youth Care Network.
If you decide to enforce a writing-based punishment, structure the writing activity to provide purpose, personal expression and choice in writing for your child. Instead of requiring her to write a set amount of sentences or a specific number of words, provide her with a list of relevant topics to choose from. Ensure that the topics reflect the misbehavior, but also, encourage personal reflection and expression. For example, “How could I have managed my anger better?” or “How would I feel if someone broke my toy?” Look at the content of the writing when determining what’s enough instead of page lengths, grammar quality or word counts -- the writing should be reflective, expressive and descriptive.
Consider other, more effective forms of punishment instead of writing exercises. Loss of privilege is one way to deter misbehavior. Another idea is to enforce a restitution punishment, which encourages children to take accountability for wrongdoing and rectify their mistakes by fixing or replacing broken or damaged items.
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How to Punish Your Kids: Choosing Appropriate Consequences
posted by Lori Lange
Kids are adorable and fun and sweet and cute and perfect. Yeah, not all the time. There are times that they throw the Mother of All Tantrums (in the middle of the grocery store)… they get physical with another child (hitting, pushing or biting)… they get a mouthy with Mom and Dad (unheard of, right?)… they display naughty behavior at school (talking too much, can’t keep hands to themselves), or they just simply don’t listen or do what they’re told to do. What’s a parent to do in terms of discipline to keep their kids on track for becoming respectful adults?
Take my kid, for example. He’s a wonderful kid. He’s smart and athletic and talented. He’s at an age (almost 11) where we tell him to brush his teeth, comb his hair and put deodorant on, and 45 minutes later the teeth are finally brushed but he’s forgotten his hair and deodorant. Obligatory chores like taking the trash out are met with heavy sighs and rolled eyes (even though he knows that he won’t get any allowance if he displays those behaviors). And God forbid we organize a family outing without checking with him first. We have many, many discussions about how we are the parents… and we make the decisions for our family… and he’s just lucky to be a part of it all.
As our boy approaches Middle School, we are trying to give him a little more freedom to roam around the neighborhood with friends. Yesterday, he had permission to head to one spot in the neighborhood. A little while later we discovered that he had left that spot and went to another location a little further away in which he did not have permission to do. As parents, my husband and I had to come up with a proper consequence for this poor decision of his. After a very lengthy discussion with our son about safety and worrying, etc., we decided to go Old-School on this one and have him write “I’ll tell my parents where I am.” 100 times. He looked at us a little funny and then got to work. After writing a full page of 30 sentences, he lamented how difficult this task was. We told him it was a good reminder for him… that he was doing this because of the poor choice he made. I believe he got the message. We could have taken away video games instead, but we didn’t feel he would have gotten the point that we were trying to make with a consequence like that.
How upset do you think my son will be when I tell him that he has to go back and add 100 periods to the ends of his sentences? 🙂
So how do you know which punishment to give for which behavior? Experts reign in on all kinds of advice. I guess it depends on who you decide to listen to and what your style of parenting is like. Here are some standard things to think about when it comes to disciplining your kids:
1. Be consistent with rules and consequences. If parents don’t stick to the rules and consequences they set up, their kids aren’t likely to either. If your child is grounded for a week, don’t let those sad eyes and sweet smile talk you into shortening that week into just a couple of days. If you’ve told them it’s a week, make it a whole week.
2. Parents need to work as a team. Whatever you decide, it’s important that parents are on the SAME PAGE when it comes to discipline. Mom shouldn’t be the softie and Dad the overbearing one (or vice versa). And you definitely shouldn’t argue about how to discipline your child– in front of your child.
3. Give warnings when you can. If you can see that your child is going down a path toward inappropriate behavior, alert them that their behavior is unacceptable to you. Give them the chance to turn their behavior around before you begin delivering consequences.
4. Choose a punishment that fits the crime. If your child is not playing appropriately with friends, then perhaps you take that privilege of playing with friends away for a given amount of time. If electronics are something that your child is excited about- you may find that taking electronics away may be an effective tool for what you’re trying to teach them. Usually we let our son take part in choosing his consequence (which is sometimes a bigger consequence than we would have chosen!)
5. Don’t choose punishments/consequences while you are angry. Take some time to think about what the appropriate punishment should be instead of delivering it in the midst of your anger at what your child has done. It will be more effective that way, and you’re less likely to “over- punish.”
Praise good behavior and do your best to model good behavior for your children. This parenting thing isn’t always so easy, but our kids look to us to learn how to behave. Parents who behave badly… well, you know where I’m going with that one.
Please share any secrets you have for effective discipline/consequences for your own kids… we need all the help we can get!
Here are a few articles that may be helpful:
Am I Too Tough When Disciplining my Kids?
9 Steps to More Effective Parenting
Age Appropriate Discipline Techniques
What to Do When You Disagree on Discipline?
The Pros and Cons of Spanking
How to Give Kids Consequences that Work
How to Punish a Child
Should You Punish Your Child?
*photo credit to that first photo- though it’s all over the internet, so not sure of the origin.
posted on April 30, 2012 by Lori Lange
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