I have NO clue how to go about punishing my children. And I work at a parenting website.
I actually wonder if most parents know how to punish their children in this modern age? Recently, when I asked my six-year-old son, three thousand times, to get up from the table and go get dressed, he just sat there crankily and whined, “I don’t want to go to school!” over and over again until I was about to implode. For the first time ever as a parent, I sternly said, “I’m going to count to three…or else!” (I didn’t have a plan for the “or else” part, but it didn’t matter.)
When my son heard me get to ‘three,’ he jumped up and ran to his room to get dressed.
I’m KIDDING. My son simply looked at me like, “Good for you Mommy! You know how to count to three!” Sigh. So, obviously counting down doesn’t work these days.
Finally, after much crying, he got off to school and I was left thinking, “This goes on every morning. I need to punish my kid!” Then I thought, “How the hell do I punish my kid?” I think I’ve found a solution that works for my family in this modern age.
I could take away my son’s iPad, but the truth is he really isn’t on it that much. I could send him to his room, full of toys and action figures, but that’s not much of a punishment. In fact, I realized that I had not one room in my house that my kid couldn’t find something to play or entertain himself with.
Frankly, I have been extremely lucky with my first born. For almost 15 years, I’ve never yelled at her. I’ve never had to punish her. (Shocking but true!) That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when she said something rude and hurtful. I yelled at her, explaining in a fit of rage why what she had said was so offensive to me. I thought, “F**k! I think I have to punish her.”
But how? She had a babysitting gig that night, so I couldn’t let the other parents down, by telling her she couldn’t leave the house. I could take away her iPhone watch, but then she still had her iPad. So I guess I could take away her iPhone watch, and iPad, but she still had her laptop, so she could still text and FaceTime with her friends. I could take away her phone, but then I wouldn’t be able to reach her. And, thanks to her school, I can’t take away her computer, because all homework, assignments, test marks, notes from teachers, permission forms, and school reminders, all come to her school e-mail address, which is on her computer.
The one thing my daughter loves is her hockey and swim teams. But I couldn’t threaten to take those away since that punishment doesn’t just affect her, it affects her teams, and I couldn’t let her teams down. See? We modern parents are screwed!
I thought, “Well, we are going to Miami to celebrate her birthday…” but I had already booked the hotel and bought plane tickets and I really want to go to Miami, so taking that away wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t even punish her by saying she couldn’t hang out with friends, since teens these days don’t seem to make plans for the future, but plans are made spontaneously. By the time a plan with her friends may come into fruition, I’d probably forget what I was mad about in the first place.
I can’t threaten my son with an upcoming birthday party he’s invited to either. Why? Because it’s his best friend’s party, and I’d be hurting his best friend if my son was a no-show. Again, we modern parents are screwed!
When I asked the other mommies in my office, not one of us had one clear-cut way of punishing our children, who range from age 2 to 15. It seems we are a generation of moms who have no clue how to punish our own kids when they misbehave, aside from telling them that their behaviour is unacceptable and saying why. But when it came to actual punishments? We are clueless.
So, I started giving my children the silent treatment when they acted up or said something rude.
Ah, the silent treatment. An age-old trick in relationships for modern-day punishment.
The silent treatment works. If you give your spouse the silent treatment, eventually (I hope) they come around and know that you are mad about something, which will lead them to ask why you are ignoring them. And then you’ll tell them why you’re mad and hopefully get an apology and things will get back on track.
Same goes with friends. If a friend pisses you off, if you give them the silent treatment, they know you’re upset and will text you, “Are you upset with me?” which leads into a discussion of why you’re angry and ignoring them. So why wouldn’t this work on my kids? Sure it’s not a romantic relationship or an adult friendship relationship, but it IS a relationship, just one between parent and kid(s).
After my darling daughter said something for a second time, in the same week that hurt my feelings (welcome to the teenage years!) I just looked at her and said, “I’m not talking to you,” and turned and walked away. When my son refused to get into his pajamas and was acting like a real brat, I turned away and walked out of the room. When he yelled, “Mommy!” I yelled back, “I”m not talking to you until you’re ready to say you’re sorry!’”
Trust me, giving your kids the silent treatment really does sound meaner on paper than it is in reality. It really works too!
Magically my son appeared in my room in his pajamas, with an, “I’m sorry!” To which I asked, “Why are you sorry?” because I don’t want my children to think they can get away with anything, just by saying the word. I need to know that they know what they did was wrong. “I’m sorry that I didn’t get into my pyjamas,” my son said grumpily. I took the grumpy apology. He didn’t like to be ignored.
When my daughter was talking to me with a snarky edge and I told her that I wasn’t talking to her until she apologized for her attitude, she tried to talk to me, but I refused to answer her questions until I got an apology, which came about ten minutes later.
Just like my son, I asked her why she was apologizing, so I could make sure she understood what had upset me. “I shouldn’t have talked to you in that tone,” she said, and, then she also apologized for what she said.
Much like any romantic relationship I’ve ever been in, when I’m mad at the guy and give them the silent treatment, they realize that something is wrong and usually apologize, because being on the end of the silent treatment sucks. And it sucks too, for children.
It’s effective. For now. For my family.
I remember, as a teen, when I got into a wicked fight with my father. He refused to talk to me until I said I was sorry, but I didn’t feel like I needed to apologize, so we didn’t talk for nearly four months, until I finally broke down and apologized, because it was too uncomfortable to live under the same roof, eat dinner at the same table, watch television in the same room, not talking to my father.
My daughter is a people pleaser, and can’t stand being ignored or knowing that someone is mad at her. The silent treatment works on her. But my son is stubborn, so, while the silent treatment may work now, it may not work in the future.
I also told my daughter – my son is too young to get this yet – that, in real life, just because you say you’re sorry, and that the person says they forgive you, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can forget about what you had said or done, immediately. It may take some time.
Of course, my daughter (and my son) and I eventually hugged it out. But I discovered that punishing children these days is so, so hard. It seems like you’re punishing yourself as well. Even using the silent treatment, because I can’t think of any other way to punish my children, also still hurts me. I like talking to my kids. I don’t want to ignore them.
Do you have any tips for modern day moms and dads on how to punish modern day children? *Asking for a friend!*