Discipline #2: Don’t go overboard in your punishment

Another terrible thing I used to do was to mete out punishment that was way beyond their crime. We had no consistent rules and their punishment was gauged not so much by their wrong-doings but by our disposition at that point in time.

When they misbehaved, initially I would punish them by taking away their toy or making them stand just outside our main door. I would tell them, “If you don’t want to listen to me, stand out there so I don’t have to see you or hear you. On some days, nothing I tell them worked and they will keep misbehaving, quarrelling over toys or throwing tantrums. By evening, I would be up to my ears and out of desperation, I will warn them, “You do this one more time and I will lock you in the bathroom”. 

So when they misbehaved again, I would take the child by the arm and put her in the dark bathroom. I forgot which child it was, but she was extremely afraid of the dark and pleaded with me not to put her in there. I was so angry, shouting at her that I had already given her a warning while dragging her to the bathroom. I closed the door and could hear her wailing inside. She was trying with all her might to open the door from inside but I was holding it tightly shut from outside. All the while, she was screaming and begging me to open the door. Thinking back, I can’t believe how barbaric I was. 

At other times, when they disobeyed me, for example, by watching TV for hours when I told them they could only watch for an hour, I would get mad and bark out a ridiculous punishment like “No more TV for a month!”. Which of course will not be enforced, which sends the message to the kids that mummy doesn’t mean what she says, so subsequently they will not abide by my rules because they are just idle threats. And it totally confuses them because they do not know when the rules will be enforced and when they won’t. And to make things worse, we both didn’t agree on the same rules. I would tell them that they can’t watch TV, but a few minutes later, daddy will say “Can watch, but just half an hour.” Poor kids. When clear boundaries are not established, the kids feel confused and insecure and they will keep trying to push the boundaries to see how far they can go. Till today, #5’s teacher tells me that he has behavioural problems and he will keep challenging what she says. Just last week, she told them that since they use their hands to draw, their mouths must be shut and they are not allowed to talk. He took the pencil and put it in his mouth and started drawing, and when she scolded him, he told her that since he can draw with his mouth, he can also use his mouth to talk. I feel so sorry for his teacher to have to deal with him day in, day out.

Now, I try to match the punishment to the misbehaviour and I will lay out the rules first so they know what is coming. For example, if they use their iPads past the specified time, I will confiscate it for a week. And I try to be consistent in the rules, the punishment, and the enforcement. (Still not easy, though). Because it is only when kids try to push the boundaries and know that mummy and daddy will always say no, only then will they grow up to be confident, secure, and happy.

Just because we can punish them in any way we like doesn’t mean we should. Power comes with responsibility and should be executed with justice and compassion. 

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

6 Replies to “Discipline #2: Don’t go overboard in your punishment”

  1. That's true… but I use the shut you in the bathroom thing too, as one step above 'naughty corner time out'. My kids aren't particularly afraid of the dark, but usually when I make them stand in a dark room to reflect, I'm there with them but standing a distance away instead. Sometimes I think such punishment is more effective for them to realise that what they did was wrong, instead of reasoning….

  2. Hey mummy wee, I agree, matching the discipline or consequence to the behaviour is important, and the earlier we can get this part right, the easier it is for the little ones to learn. I too have tried to keep Javier in the room when he's at his most unruly (also partially for myself to regain some composure and sanity…) but it doesn't quite help him calm down, so we found it works better to stay in the room with him until he calms down…

    Clear boundaries and consequences are what we keep trying to establish, but there are always new challenges as the kids grow! Thanks for sharing such an important lesson with us!

  3. Hey June,

    You know, I really think all parents should be educated about how to raise kids before the kids come about. I can see that those parents who have prior practice, for example in church groups where they learn how to discipline the kids under them, do a much better job than those clueless parents like I was before!

  4. mummy wee, jus for sharing, i did that too, shut my kid in dark bathroom.. even though we know its not right, we did it out of splurge of anger, cant control at that point of time :(.. Thanks for lessons posting

  5. Hi,

    Thanks so much for sharing. It helps to know that we are all in this together, because many times after that, we feel so guilty and sometimes think that we are such bad moms. We are all trying our best, and it's really one of the toughest jobs in the world.

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