Having a Hard Time Disciplining...

Updated on September 22, 2012
A.E. asks from Philadelphia, PA
18 answers

My daughter (10 yo) takes it hard when I discipline her. She has been off task (joking around) at school and I had told her 3 strikes your out. She had been of task again so I told her she was grounded from TV, Comp., and Video Games. I caught her playing video games so I added another week. She gave me the "Its just so boring without anything" talk and I said she knew she would get another week added so she should only expect to have another LONGER boring week. My 'problem' is she just sits around doing nothing. Which is to be expected but what are some ideas I should have her do to make the time go by faster? Its getting to me watching her so bored but I do want to keep my word. Also am I supposed to not talk normal to her? LIke joking around etc? I know every parent does things differently but I would like to hear other opinions on what they do.

*I DONT ignore her or anything while she is on punishment. I treat her normal. Just making sure that was 'ok' to do while she is on punishment.*

Someone mentioned my punishment being too long.. VERY Good point. How long should a punishment be? The first round for being off task (3 times) was Weds and she was going to get everything back today but I found her playing video games yesterday. SO how long should I extend it? I myself was thinking an extra week was too long. But I never know how long is too long or too short. Heck with her 1 day is a struggle for her.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I ended up having her earn her TV, Video Games, etc.. back. She does read every day and she has plenty of books even a stack she has yet to read. So there was no point in having her go to the library. She started writing her own book. She herself thought about this on her own which was great. Anywho I had her clean the bathroom and the floor by hand (the bathroom is so small there is no point in getting a mop and bucket. She cleaned her room AND vacuumed it aswell. After that I did have a talk to make sure she understood that the punishment would be longer if she goofed around at school again. Some wondered what I meant by "off task"....All I was going by was what her folder said. But in speaking to her teacher I found out she was goofing off making faces with friends etc.. Apparently she is also getting bored and staring off into space in class aswell which I have talked to the teacher about and we are working together on it. Thank you to everyone who responded. Loved some ideas that were put out there. :-)

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answers from Lansing on

She's 10? I don't think the punishment was too long.

I agree with the poster who said take her to the library. And/or if she is that bored make her clean.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I don't think the punishment is too long at all! She's soaking you for guilt. "Look at me, poor me". I wouldn't have waited for 3 strikes. They know they can do something wrong twice before getting punished. She's 10, not 4. She knows the rules and she knows what she's doing wrong. Now she's trying to guilt you with the "poor me" thing. You give her one warning and let her know the consequences. So what if she's bored. That's the point! Punishments are not meant to be fun or easy. If they were then kids would keep breaking rules. It's suppose to be hard so they think next time. You can't necessarily go by what she likes or wants. If she's bored and not liking the punishment then it fits! The moment she's comfortable with the punishment is the moment you need to make it more difficult. This is why they're called punishments. I wouldn't worry one bit if she's bored. Seriously? Oh well! If she complains then tell her to read a book or help make dinner. And in my house, complains get extra chores! May her pay the price for her actions, period. She will never learn and you are being sucked in by feeling bad for her.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, discipline is not really connected to your emotions, no matter how you feel about your daughter's misbehavior. So you can talk normally, joke around, act as you always do. She's not being punished because you're angry! She is being punished because she did something that wasn't right, and/or didn't do something that was right. She was warned about her behavior, and her electronics deprivation is the consequence of her own choices.

She may well be putting on an act ("There's nothing to dooooooo!" "I'm just going to sit on the couch and glare at you because you're so MEEEEEEAN to me!") to wear you down (can she wear you down? You write that her passive-aggressiveness is getting to you), but you don't have to put on an act for her. You're the mama, remember. You don't have to make her happy.

Second, many people - young and old - are so strongly connected to their electronic entertainment options (especially games) that when they don't have them they really DON'T know what to do. They're lost when they're outside their little game world. So, although the whining may be aimed toward you, the statement may be a statement of fact.

So you could grab this time and use it as a very, very sneaky teaching opportunity. Your daughter may feel it's adding insult to injury, but that's just too bad. "Sitting and glaring is not an option you have. Here's what people did back in the dinosaur days before there were electronics. Believe it or not, they actually had lives." (Don't worry - this won't be too entertaining for her. She still thinks you'll give up. Don't.)

Take her to the library, on your way to the grocery store, and have her take out three books. She must read them, and she must start reading them tonight. Have her dig out a board game (or have her borrow one from the neighbors or Grandma) and both of you learn how to play it. (You can do this because she's still under disciplinary measures; you didn't say she couldn't play with YOU! But don't do much with her - you have things of your own to do and you have only a few minutes.)

Tell her where the paper, lead pencils and colored pencils are. Tell her to go out back and draw all the different leaves (or bugs) she can find there. Give her a recipe for flour-and-water clay. Have her fix one food for supper every night. OR... it might be better to put all these on a list (except the books and the dinner help, which need to be standard), along with other options, and say, "Pick one and do it. Now." Put some jobs on the list, too, like "Arrange your shoes in your closet," "Sweep the front walk," "Fold the laundry," "Arrange the canned goods in the cabinet."

If your daughter is like my grandchildren, she'll pick one and do it for a short or even a long while, or else she'll think of something different on her own.

You are not helping her make the time go by faster! Oh, no! Not as far as she's concerned. She still hopes to get her way. She won't get it.

Be matter-of-fact in all this. Don't give her too much attention. Don't lecture. Don't entertain her. But direct some options and see what she does with them. There's nothing wrong with a kid actually learning and enjoying something from a disciplinary action, is there?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

First, don't go for overkill. I know that some parents feel piling on the punishment should work well, but it doesn't. It just creates a bad parent/child dynamic, with both sides digging their heels in.

Second, if you say "no video games", put the game console away. Leaving things out which tempt her is probably not a good route to go.

Third, if it were me, I would have her work on really boring chores as a consequence. One of the boring chores for this infraction (not allowing others in class to pay attention to the teacher, not doing her work) would be A. all homework has to be completed and corrected before any game/media time or playtime.
B. she is ten. She must come up with a list of reasons why she needs to be respectful to the teacher and others in her classroom when it's an instruction time.
C. Respecting the teacher's authority is important, even if her friends aren't. She needs to write a letter of apology to the teacher and include some of what I suggested in B, showing that she understands why her actions are so disruptive.

Perhaps the next time this occurs, you could ask the teacher what sort of clean-up tasks need to be done in the classroom. She could stay after school with you and take care of deep cleaning a cupboard, or picking up litter/garbage around the school property for an hour. Sometimes, it's not the loss of privileges that get kids to decide to change their ways, but really boring chores. Here's a snip from a post I read on this from a woman I greatly admire, who studies children from a biological standpoint:

"The consequences are useful because they are boring – their intuitive/emotional brain has a chance to process, they are working physically – their cortisol/adrenalin levels (from being cross that they have to work) are reduced, and their reasonable/rational brain is put on hold because the first two things are taking up all the space in their heads."

Here's a link to the entire post on chores:

Lastly, if you can shorten this consequence and make it about your daughter containing herself and not a battle between you and she about obeying, you will find more harmony in your household. That said, once you have grounded her from media, I'd continue on as normal in how you engage with her. She's not a horrible person, and you likely wouldn't want to be a grandma, seeing your grandchildren grounded from games and their mother--your own daughter-- giving them the silent treatment. I'd say, engage with her as normal most of the time and look into the more 'boring' consequences. (and no media time until that boring consequence is taken care of.)

And I agree with many : boredom is good! It's not your job to entertain her while her entertainment is gone. She does have books, right? Maybe a library trip will give her something to do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Your punishments are too long! Punishments must be tied to the offense and short enough that they still feel bad but long enough that they suffer. At the point where they start negotiating that is where they no longer feel bad about the crime and the punishment has an opposite effect of what you want.

Think about it in adult terms. You do something wrong and you know it, the person it effected is mad at you. They stay mad for a day you feel bad, you want to never let them down again. Two days, okay.. Three days, really? Four days plus, oh get over it already!!! and you start thinking of reasons you were right and maybe you shouldn't have been sorry about it in the first place!!

Kids do the same thing! You cannot make a punishment so long that they start rationalize why what they did really wasn't wrong in the first place or they just start making sure you don't find out the next time they do it.

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answers from Washington DC on

A week may have been too long for the second discipline (withdrawing another week of video games etc. after you caught her playing one while already on discipline). BUT the infraction was actually greater, to me. She violated the discipline, which should get the same amount or more of discipline. To me, doing the thing that has been taken away is actually worse that the initial problem. But a whole week may have been too long.

A couple of thoughts:

Another person posted, what are you doing to help her stay on task? A very valid point. Are you working with her teacher closely on her behaviors at school? Are you in good communication with the teacher so your chiild KNOWS mom and teacher talk, so mom will indeed know everything that goes on and mom will know if she's goofing around IN school? At home, do you have an environment where she can focus on homework without distractions, at a time when she is rested and has had a snack, without any electronics even in the room where the very presence of them makes her think about those instead of homework? I would start working hard right now with the teacher (for strategies to ensure more focus at home and at school) and the school counselor (who might need to do some one-on-one with your child to nip the "joking around" in the bud; maybe your child feels it's the only way to be accepted, or feels secretly that she doesn't have friends unless she's jokey, etc.? Those are counselor issues more than teacher issues.)

What does being "off task" mean here? Was it not getting homework done or whatever? Sit down with her at at time when she has not been having any issues and things are calm, and ask her to help you define what it means to be "on task" or "off task." Kids need specifics, and kids respond better if they help determine those specifics. She needs to know exactly what you expect.

The "she sits around doing nothing" bit, so she violates discipline by sneaking a video game....Oh my. The words "bored" and "boring" are forbidden in our house (seriously, they are) because anyone with a brain should not ever be bored. It sounds like she needs to be weaned away from videos, computer and TV even when things are going fine, because she is so reliant on them for her entertainment. Does she have activities outside school--Scouts, sports, dance, art, music lesson, anything? It doesn't have to be an organized group activity; does she like to go places and do things with you casually?

She needs to cultivate some interests so I'd get her into activities if she's not in any, and otherwise: I would work with her to set some reading goals and rewards. For instance, if she literally sits there doing nothing, she could be reading a book you have chosen together (libraries and schools have recommended reading lists by age; choose one that interests her but that she won't be reading in school). Then she does something fun to show she's read it AND actually absorbed it, like telling you about the plot and characters while doing some small activity for you related to the book. It's about colonial America? Cook a colonial dish together. The outdoors figures in the story? Go for a walk in a park and collect fallen leaves for a collage. Whatever. Then she gets a specific, non-electronic reward for each book she finishes, or say that after she has read and done some activity for a certain number of books, you'll take her someplace special for dinner or whatever would motivate her. Yes, you will be acting like a teacher at home somewhat, but it sounds like she needs a push to read more and to find reading exciting.

And if you do not already have limits on total "screen time" for her, establish them now. Many families do not just a limit of "one hour of TV, one hour of computer" etc. but a total screen time limit per day or week; for instance, if your limit today is one hour of screen time and you spend it all on the computer, you don't get extra time for that TV show you like; your time is up, period. Anything facing any screen (TV, computer, DVDs, all hand-held devices too) counts toward total screen time. Have you assessed how much screen time she's been getting? I'd limit it.

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answers from Chicago on

How old is she? I'd take her to the library and let her pick out some books. I'd probably take away the tv too and tell her to get her nose in a book. Or she should get outside and play.

When my kids complained that they were bored, I made them clean. Lo and behold, they always find something to do now!

Sure you can joke around with her. Everything is the same except she can't play video games.

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answers from Boston on

I think the punishment should sit by itself - that means you don't treat her differently in any other way. Don't ignore her or stop being funny with her - everything else should be normal.

I think you need to be very specific with her about what "on task" and "off task" mean. She may need a specific list of responsibilities and perhaps with a schedule - math from 3:30-4, reading from 4-4:30, whatever. She may be joking around because she's defiant, or she may just be disorganized and not know what to do. So set up a schedule that works for your family and is in line with her teacher's expectations. Include "down time" in the schedule.

Many kids who watch too much TV or play too many video games are so used to BEING entertained that they cannot actually DO the entertaining. So she's "bored" because she can't think of anything else to do, or she is trying to guilt trip you into shortening the punishment, or both. I agree with you that adding an extension on the punishment was correct when she defied you and started sneaking the video games. A week is fine for a 10 year old.

She can just sit around if that's how she wants to spend her time, but she can't complain about it. Don't let it get to you. You can help her, if you want, to find new activities that are fun and enriching. You can make a suggestion list and she can choose or not choose - but sitting around being bored is her CHOICE and she needs to accept responsibility for it. If you make a list that includes "chores" you might find she is interested in something, perhaps something you can do together. Cooking the family dinner might be nice, and something where you can compliment her. Finding recipes that look fun and delicious might be good. You can certainly list things like laundry, raking, dusting, but those should be as family responsibilities that are shared, not pure punishment.

It's not up to you to make the time go faster. It's up to HER to decide to let life pass her by or to participate in it. It's her CHOICE to be bored by not staying on task and by defying you. If you can get this into her head before the teen years, you will be way ahead of the game!

Her job is go get an education and have the best possible time doing it. She has no choice about the school work. She CAN choose how miserable to make herself. Don't buy into the guilt.

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answers from Williamsport on

My large extended family is very strict, but their kids are all great and hardly need discipline because of it. My kids aren't this old yet, but I'll follow their model. For ten years old your time frame isn't really too long to an extent. Heck I'd removed the things permanently and let her earn them back very gradually with good behavior. No, you don't need to be stern or cross after delivering "sentence" in ADDITION to time served. But but she SHOULD not be bored. Don't forget, the whole GOAL of effective discipline is to change wrong behaviors so that you don't have to use discipline all the time. If discipline is mild and annoying, the behaviors will keep on happening. She should have more done besides just the removals, like ADDED chores (on top of her normal ones) she needs to do instead of her leisure time favorite things. This way, she's not bored, she's paying a debt with labor, and she feels a sense of accomplishment after, but she'll think twice before bringing it upon herself again if it means hard work for her. Also, while you aren't being mean or cranky or anything, you ALSO don't allow her to have a bad attitude, or you add more chores. You can also offer ways for her to EARN BACK the things you took away with good attitude and behavior during the week. But don't let her manipulate you by knowing that, just come in a few days early with "Since you have been awesome at helping and your attitude is great, you can have your X back".
From there you should get tougher. Remember, computer, TV, video games etc are luxuries that no child is really entitled too, we're just used to everyone having them here. I'm guessing she didn't buy those items with her money from work. Therefore, by removing them, you haven't done much really. For centuries no one had those things. She ALSO needs CONSEQUENCES. Serious consequences are not sitting around bored and complaining. We didn't have computers or video games as kids, and almost no TV, and if my parents caught us acting "bored", they would give us chores even if we didn't do anything wrong! (made us super creative real fast at keeping busy :) If we would have been acting up in school-we would have been SORRY and doing our hard chores with a stung butt. Which is why we didn't act up in school. So already, you're VERY much NOT being too tough on her.
Good luck!
Also, reading and drawing are not punishment, but she needs to do those things in her spare time when all work is done and the screens are off. It's much better for her anyway. If she HATES those and won't do them, that needs to change anyway. Get a stack of books and pens and paper handy.

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answers from San Francisco on

First I don't think extending it a week is too long - she outright defied you. You have to make the consequence something she's going to remember. Sounds like a week of this punishment is going to be memorable.

As for things to do, are there no friends in the neighborhood to play with?

Ride bike
Roller blades
Make/sell lemonade
Read a book
Play a board game
Help you cook
arts and crafts
listen to music

And if she REALLY can't find ANYTHING to do, assign her some chores. Bet she stop whining about boredom!

And yes, you do be nice to her during punishment. Her punishment is no tv, video games or computer, not no mom or family interaction.

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answers from Chicago on

I think that the video games and the TV are the problem with her staying "on task." When kids watch too much TV or play too many video games, they are used to BEING entertained (like one poster said) and also TV and video games move quickly. Real life doesn't move that quick. If she's that bored, then she needs less TV and video games all together and she needs to do imaginative play, read books or do art.

What I usually do with punishment is I try to give her a chance to earn back whatever I've taken away. My punishments are always "indefinite" in that it can go as long as she chooses or as short as she chooses. She can earn back what has been taken away either by demonstrating the right behavior consecutively, or by "working off" the damage. I think this helps curb the "depression" kid feel when they know they have a week with no TV (or whatever) and it switches the focus to "how can I fix this?" That's what you want anyway! You don't punish to make them feel bad, you punish so that they make a change.

Sometimes there is no punishment. Sometimes it's just "how can we fix this together?"

If your daughter is going off task at school, that means she needs help. She probably is a little bit lost so she needs to learn how to ask the teacher for help instead of goofing around. I would talk to her about it, and also her teacher. Kids goof around when they don't understand at school and they get bored.

If I were you, I wouldn't punish. I'd put all the video game systems away and move to a system where she earns video game and TV time. Staying on task at school means she learns X amount of video game time or TV time. Going off task means she loses video game time and instead she has to extra school work because she needs help.

This makes the consequence immediate. BUT she also has a brand new chance to earn video game or TV time the next day. Right now, why should she stay on task at all? She's already punished! If my 11-year old feels that there's "no hope" or she's already punished, she gets WORSE. I guess she figures there's no point in making a change (my 11-year old is also very dramatic and told me she wanted to die because I took away her iPod for 24 hours when I caught her playing with it at night!)

Anyway, good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

I don't know what kind of video games you are talking about but with my boys when they are "unplugged" (nothing with electric charge, batteries, etc.) I TAKE the device. No, I can't take the TV that the X-Box is connected to, but I do take the controllers. The beginning of the punishment is for them to go get me their Nintendo's and I-Pods.

We usually do a day at a time, but it depends on the problem we are addressing.

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answers from Austin on

I didn't read ALL of the responses, but I read quite a few, and you got some really good ones. I would add, though, that if her second infraction was playing video games when she shouldn't, then maybe make the extended period just for the video games. That is obviously the one she is having the most trouble staying away from, so I say, let her have the TV, but not the video game system.

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answers from Dallas on

When my kids are 'grounded' from video games, (I do a week typically - sometimes it starts out as two days, then they keep arguing - bam week)
I have 'chores' or activities they need to accomplish to keep time from getting to them. We clean and rearrange the play room, bed room, we spend more time riding bikes (yay!) and more time reading. Just because you are banned from one thing, we don't make the rest of life dull:)
If she won't do anything or complains about 'being bored' get her involved, grocery shopping, cooking, art gallery (make your own or go to one) etc.
Good luck it is a moving target as they age as to what will work and what is appropriate. I got some great advice here today, too reading all the other mama's suggestions:)

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answers from Fargo on

I'm not sure how old she is, but with my 7 year old, i treat her normal when she's grounded. I grounded her 2 months ago from tv, comp and video games. She started reading more and helping me around the house (dishes, folding laundry, helping cook dinner). In fact we rather enjoyed the grounding that its sort of permanent haha. I personally watch very little to no tv, so i like seeing the girls follow suit. We go to the library to keep her in books, she reads for at least an hour, still helps me....these things earn her stars and she can redeem the stars to watch a program, play a video game, money, etc. Even my 15 year old is on board. Although its thrown a wrench in the whole grounding thing haha.

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answers from Austin on

Off task at school? what are you doing to HELP her stay on task? What are you and the school doing to work with her to fix this?

Grounding her for weeks at a time, is WAY too long. Especially if you are not willing to engage her at home.

ignoring her, not being yourself weeks at a time towards her? that is passive aggressive behavior. you are teaching her she is just a bad person.

Instead she is a 10 year old child. Either struggling to concentrate. Not getting concepts, or just not motivated at school.

Figure out the why, work n that, and let her know you are concerned and want her to succeed and so you are going to work together to help her get on task..

I would start with the teacher and see what they are observing at school.

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answers from Denver on

I don't think there is anything wrong with helping her find other things to do. Activity books, crafts, outdoor gardening work. It still can be fun, and if she finds she enjoys the other activities, that's ok! Talk the same to her. Remain calm and firm. The punishment is the removal of the games - that's it. Good luck - it's tough....



answers from Philadelphia on

Maybe she can have access to a nice stack of books. Maybe she'll develop a love for reading. (By the way, Pizza Hut brought the 'Book It" program back where students can earn free pizza by logging minutes read each week).

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