Finding a Balanced Punishment for Children

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In an ideal world most parents would never have to spend time contemplating how to punish their children, this is really a sickening thought and one that I dread talking with my wife about.  I grew up in a family where spanking, hitting and yelling were common place and remember the fear, and terror I had as I awaited the next belt whipping from things I did wrong.  That kind of fear and pain only got worse through the years as what was just a belt whip on the bottom as a kid turned into being hit with an open hand in the face as I became an older child, to once being actually close fist punched in the face as a teenager.

As a result of my own upbringing I am strongly opposed to physical punishment in almost every way, invoking fear as a means to enforce good behavior is ultimately detrimental to the mental health of the child.  However I think that it can be very difficult to discipline some children who are just not fazed by time outs, corner time, or simply “chore” punishments which we have leveraged over the years in my own house.

Removing privileges still remains a punishment reserved for some behaviors, as well as sending a child to spend some alone time in their room.  Though punishing a two year old is vastly different and requires a different set of punishments than a five or six year old who has much more comprehension and is able to understand more.

One thing I still do in my own household and is common in most I imagine is get too upset and frustrated when dealing with a child who doesn’t listen and does something bad.  I yell more than I should and it is one of my own personal goals to weed that own tendency out of my repertoire as it doesn’t do anything but vent my own frustration and sometimes my kids end up with hurt feelings.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect parent or a perfect disciplinary system as each child has their own unique personality and what works on one doesn’t work as well on another.  I think it takes some experimentation to find a punishment that is fair and disliked enough that it will encourage your child to make better choices, but trying to teach them not to do things because they are wrong is more important than them just following rules because they are afraid or dislike the punishment.

One of my biggest challenges is my two year old who happens to be very stubborn and gets wild and almost uncontrollable in public places sometimes, these involve constantly moving, jumping at restaurants and other public places as well as being very loud and putting feet up on the table…etc.  I have not found an effective punishment that can deter this as I have tried talking, removing privileges, timeouts, and punishments that are instilled after we have already went home like going to bed early.  Nothing really works though when my two year old is in one of these moods and I wonder if there is just some ways that a two year old needs a little more flexibility, or what would be the best method to try and discourage and prevent this behavior.  Ignoring was often a recommended tactic but doesn’t really work at all.

I like many parents am just trying to raise my kids to be good hearted, intelligent and responsible adults when they are older, I want them to make the right choices and help reinforce good behaviors while they are young while help them make better choices and have the best behavior they can have at home.  On some days the kids are great, others they fight like animals with each other.  All one can do and hope is that they have raised happy, healthy kids who were provided with the tools to learn and grow and felt encouraged and nurtured while being reasonably punished when they tested the waters or acted poorly.

One of the things I enjoy least about parenting is definitely punishing my children when they have done something wrong, as they grow up so quickly I would prefer to spend more time engaged in some activity with them.  I just hope that I can find the right balance of punishment so my kids will grow up without feeling some of the psychic scars that I have suffered.

-Justin Germino

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Updated: July 21, 2009 — 7:32 pm