With each Moms Talk column, Norristown Patch takes time out to answer questions from one of our most important readerships—moms!
Finding the right sentence for the crime—that is what Moms Talk is all about this week. Our question comes from a reader concerned about making sure she and her husband are finding the right level of punishments for their son’s actions.
“Our son has an issue with hitting his classmates. He’s smacked children with his lunch box, and we’ve since decided on brown bags to pack in to school. Now, he is using his hands to punch. His teacher has sent a few notes home about his behavior, and no matter what we pick to punish him with, it doesn’t seem to work.
We both feel strongly about not physically hurting our son, so we don’t do spankings or anything. But, so far, we can’t seem to find something that ‘matters’ to him. We take things away and he doesn’t seem to care.
Patch, please help us find a solution to help find a solid, agreeable punishment for our 6-year-old. We want this behavior to stop, but we can’t find something that works.”
Alice H., of Upper Moreland
We use a variety of punishments in our house, Alice. We try to pick a level that “fits the crime.” Depending on the severity of the action, we, as parents, try to find a fitting “sentence.”
In short, we use one key factor—we try to take away things that they love the most. Depending on how serious the offense is, we decide on what should be removed from their daily routines and for how long.
For example, my son loves playing video games. If he misbehaves at school, he is not permitted to play games for a whole day. To a 5-year-old, a day without his DS seems like the end of the world. We have decided “no games” means no computer, console or hand-held games at our house.
For our daughter, who is 3, it can mean losing her favorite toy for a day (a Baby Alive at the moment). Sometimes, we’ve taken her beloved blankets.
For major missteps, we’ve taken more major things away. My son loves going to karate lessons on Fridays. If he does not get all “green lights” at school (meaning he is listening and following the teacher’s directions), he may not go to karate.
My husband has suggested for an older child, deleting an entire saved video game. If your child is into this, it could be very major. In other cases, we’ve taken away television, toys, visits with friends, party invitations, desserts ... the basic thing to remember is most everything your child has or does is a privilege, and a privilege can be taken away.
If you have to, continue to strip privileges away until your child is sleeping on a bed with a flat sheet, with zero toys, friends, shows, movies or games. I know it sounds cruel, but you have to continue to take steps until he realizes you mean business.
Also remember that you are the boss. You should reiterate the rules, explain why something is being taken away, and be clear about the policy. Your son should understand fully that if "A" behavior occurs, "B" consequence will result.
I find it helpful, if your son reads clearly, to post rules and post punishments. There should be no discussion, alteration or easing back. Stick to your guns. Lay down the law, and then be sure the law is carried out.