Every Parent Has Different Views on Appropriate Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior
How do we determine the proper consequences when our children behave badly?
Child punishment and the results of bad behavior is an emotional post for me to write.
My hesitation isn’t due to my beliefs.
Instead, it seems everyone has a different viewpoint on the topic. Many of you will judge my perspective negatively.
I believe that’s a good thing.
I understood the consequences of bad behavior when I was small.
It appeared as a sudden slap to the cheek, a pinch on my arm, or a swat across my rump.
I remember asking Mom and Grandma to explain certain things I’d heard them or people in the community mention.
Consistently, I was told, “Nice girls don’t talk about things like that.”
Are there no consequences to bad behavior?
Back then, no one talked about the punishment of the daughters who belonged to the ‘Kitten Club.’ (Members were only those girls who were known to have had under-age sex.)
When we heard of a boy who groped a girl on a date, the usual excuse of ‘boys will be boys’ quickly ended all discussion.
It was a different time when I was growing up. WWII had ended, soldiers were moving into homes they could never have afforded without the GI Bill, and parents were dedicated to giving their children everything they didn’t have when they were kids.
Dr. Spock advocated that people show their children affection and love. His advice was to ‘discipline with words, not corporal punishment.’
At our house, corporal punishment still existed when our father returned home. The love and affection came from the housekeepers during the day and from our mother evenings and Sundays (the only day of the week both parents had off from their jobs.)
Another girl in town was lucky enough to have her mother home every day of the week. She was raised strictly by Dr. Spock’s book.
Lack of Consequences for Bad Behavior
My mom often commented that she wished the girl’s mother had never seen Dr. Spock’s book.
This girl demanded her way in everything. If her parents didn’t give her what she wanted, she went to her grandparents.
Don’t get me wrong. She was a great girl, and I tried to overlook her attitude around her parents.
The bottom line was that she felt and acted privileged.
My Message Was Clear
There can be no doubt, based on the abuse I suffered as a child, how I would instruct my sons.
Rarely did I paddle them on their bottoms, but it happened a few times when I caught them doing something I considered dangerous. (Playing with the buttons on the stove.) Never did I paddle them too hard or strike them in anger.
My treatment was nothing compared to what I received as a kid.
Lessons & Trust
When they were in their teens, I shared with them the truth about their grandfather.
I never taught them to hate him. Instead, I allowed visits with constant supervision.
I’m sick of the constant excuse that “Boys will be boys” or “Men will be men.”
That philosophy is no longer acceptable.
My sons understood what I expected of them. They were to treat members of the opposite sex with respect. Nothing less was tolerated.
Also, the boys knew my position on drugs and drinking. If arrested on drug charges, or drinking and driving, I should be the last person they should call for assistance.
I would not come to their aid nor would I tolerate such unacceptable behavior.
These viewpoints were further impressed upon them when drunk drivers hit first me and then my oldest son in the 80’s.
What Are We To Do?
The days of covering up our behavior due to wealth or position appear to be coming to an end.
I’ve watched as parents attempt to give their kids so much more than I ever had as a child.
There are consequences when we enable our children regardless of their behavior.
We expect both good and bad consequences based on our actions. Our children should expect nothing less.
For our children to be successful, we need to set appropriate expectations. When we focus our efforts on what our children should do, we provide an excellent teaching opportunity in assisting them with building life-long skills.
The one thing you can’t forget is that attention is the strongest enforcer of both good and bad behavior.
That’s one of the reasons I ignored some of the minor events in my children’s lives. There were times my young sons begged for punishment when I felt it wasn’t appropriate.
They created guilt for bad behavior. That was the consequence the boys chose.
The best example of that is the day one of my sons ran through the living room, knocking over an antique bowl which had belonged to my grandmother. I treasured the dish because it was the only thing I had that belonged to her.
As I knelt on the floor, picking up the pieces, my son’s tears matched my own.
“Pease, mommy pank me.” He begged. (He was only four.)
I pulled him into my arms and explained as gently as possible that the broken bowl was an accident. Then, I reminded him of the fact that running wasn’t allowed in the living room. I explained to him that he hadn’t kicked or thrown the bowl on purpose.
I can’t remember a day as a parent when I felt as horrible as I did that day. His remorse was a harsher punishment than anything I could have handed out.
My disappointment in losing a cherished memento was much worse punishment than any four-year-old child should have had to bear.
He’ll never forget the lesson he learned that day.
Consequences Should not Involve Shame or Ridicule
I did not shame my child. Instead, I acknowledged that I knew he didn’t mean to break Grandma Burton’s bowl.
My words were soft and kind.
We held on to each other as we cried that afternoon.
Where I failed him was in not coming up with some chore to task him with that day.
I’ve never punished my children for an accident, and I don’t think I could do it anytime.
Funny, but I did try to allow him to pick a punishment.
The punishment he picked was far more severe than anything I could have imagined on my own. So, I thanked him for his offer but told him again that it was an unfair punishment for what happened.
As I told my sons, there is no perfect solution to parenting.
The best we can all do is to follow our hearts and make our child’s well-being our primary goal.
We’re going to get some things right and fail miserably on others.
I must have done more than a few things right because I’m incredibly proud of the men my sons are now.
Let’s talk about the consequences.
What’s worked for you in choosing appropriate consequences?
Also, what consequence do you consider a failure that no one should use?
Use the comments below to share your viewpoints.