Tag Archives: discipline

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Now – before we begin you have to merrily sing the following chorus from a song in the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!

(This link will take you to an amazon page where you can here a snippet of just the chorus if you haven’t ever heard it before 😀 Just scroll down and press the little play button.)

This was our main theme when we sat down to Family Home Evening a few weeks ago with the children to sort out the house rules and their consequences. We find this is an ongoing process that is always in need of change and tweaking. Somethings work long term, but more often than not we frequently have to change things up. So, I’ll start with what we are doing now and then mention some things we tried in the past.

We started off by going around the family a few times and having each member state a rule they thought was very important in our family. After we had a list of 15 – 20 rules we stopped the kids and began to work on narrowing the list down to 5 major rules that would help create a better atmosphere in the home. A lot of the smaller rules ended up being encompassed in the larger rules. These were our top five house rules:

1. No Fighting (this ecompassed the pushing, hitting, kicking – you get the idea)

2. Do not throw things (we seem to have this issue with people chucking things when they get mad – drives me NUTS!)

3. Treat house with respect – no running (mainly because we’ve had too many collisions with all sorts of things and the dog gets riled up and starts jumping on people), no graffiti, no slamming doors, pounding on walls, and so on.

4. Listen to your parents – do not argue with them.

5. No yelling/ screaming/ temper tantrums.

Then, we had the kids help us decide what good consequences for those rules would be. We reminded them that ultimately Mom and Dad would decide if the consequence was appropriate and reminded them we wanted “the punishment to fit the crime”. This is what we came up with:

1. Service – since we are trying to encourage love and kindness, if they are mean to someone and hit them, etc. then they get to do some act of service to make up for it. Pick up a few things in their room, make their bed, help with the chores – something to let them know they are sorry and to make up for the meanness. Often (since it usually takes 2 to tango) we will have them work together or stick with each other until they are happily playing and getting along.

2. Extra job – the logic here was that since throwing things makes more of a mess they would not only pick up what they through but have an extra job to do on top of it.

3. 15 push-ups (to release all that pent up energy they obviously have, heh) and if there is damage to repair then they have to repair it – such as scrubbing a wall if they wrote on it – mainly in place for the little people who are still learning that you don’t touch mom’s walls with writing utensils – EVER.
* My other standard consequence which is still in place, is that if you beat up on my furniture – kick it, jump on it, etc. you have to give it a hug and a kiss and apologize to it.

4. Time out – the standard age old consequence we figured to be a good one for arguing with mom and dad to allow thinking time. They sit in time out for one minute per age. So James who’s only 2 only has 2 minute time outs, while Liz who is 11 (and would hopefully know better :-D) would have an 11 minute time out.

5. Sock in mouth – no, we’re not socking our kids in the mouth – they have to put a clean sock in their mouth and keep it there 1 minute per age. This accomplishes a few things – first off it is hard to scream and yell and carry on when your mouth is full of sock, 2nd it saves everyone else’s ears and sanity. 😀 We figure it’s longer lasting than washing mouths out with soap – and you don’t have to worry about nasty chemicals and such.
Some other things we have tried in the past – hot sauce – a dab of it on their tongue. This one backfired when our main offender developped a liking for it – she is now our girl who LOVES spicy food. Rather funny, really.
I have to say really quick where I came up with the idea, a few years ago the kids were yelling about something and I, being totally frustrated, muttered none to kindly under my breath, “Ah, put a sock in it.” Then I paused and thought, “Not a bad idea.” After which I promptly fetched some clean socks and silenced the problem. 😀

And there we go, our rules and consequences. I am in the process of making up a chart to – you guessed it! – laminate and put on the fridge. I like doing picture charts for rules and consequences so that the kids who can’t read yet can still understand what is expected of them.

I also have to say that we made sure each kid understood and agreed tot he rules and consequences. Also, we made it clear that consequences could and would be stacked. So if some one started to argue with me they would have a timeout, then if they got angry about it and yelled, they would take the timeout with a sock in their mouth – if they slammed the door as they stormed off to find a sock they would have 15 push-ups to do and so on. We are hoping to help them learn to stop and think before they make the situation worse.

SO, the thing to remember is these rules have pretty much always been there, but it is setting them up again with the kids as a refresher in the hopes there will be a renewed effort to keep them. We still have other rules and consequences in place, so they don’t get away with other things. We’ve tried to be pretty creative with some of our consequences, but we’ve also tried to stick to two general ideas:

1 – Always follow through – so, if we aren’t planning on sticking to it, don’t say it. Where possible and applicable we also try to let the kids set their own punishment – they are usually much harder on themselves than we would ever be.

2 – Try to the best of our ability to make the punishment fit the crime – we’ve found it more effective because it is more logical to the child and helps them think about their actions and the impact it has.

Anyway, discipline is tricky and there are a million ways to go about it and it’s always a work in progress. I also firmly believe there is no right way to go about it (a few wrong ones perhaps – but those are pretty extreme anyway) and it depends heavily upon kids’ personality and family dynamics and so forth.

That being said, I would love to hear what creative things you do/ have done for consequences and discipline. And if I remember more things we’ve tried I’ll post them in the comments section.


Filed under Every Day Life, Parenting