What Do You Do for Punishment?

Updated on March 01, 2011
J.S. asks from Saint Paul, MN
7 answers


I have 3 kids, aged almost 6, 4 and 2. The older two are boys with the almost 6 year old in 1/2 day Kindergarten. I'm going to start this by saying I have great kids. Generally they are very well behaved, but they are kids and they make mistakes.

I am curious about what other parents use for punishment as their kids get older. I use time out, distraction, and taking a break with my 2 year old, and my 4 year old gets time out and toys put in time out as well. But I am struggling to find appropriate punishment for my older boy.

Example, yesterday he was angry with me and actually spit at me. I was floored and was literally speechless. We were getting home from picking up his brother from preschool and he was angry (about several things - mostly being the fact that he is hungry after Kindergarten and tired and really doesn't like to have to go get his brother right after he gets home - but that is the way it is - and yes I do give him a snack before we leave). Anyway, I opened the door to get him and he spit at me. I told him I was too angry and I needed a break and shut him back in the car while I got the other two kids in the house. I emailed my husband to tell him what happened, then I went out and got him. I let him eat lunch then sent him to his room so my husband and I could talk on the phone to decide an appropriate punishment. We ended up taking away a video that he had checked out at the library that he was super excited to watch (it was about volcanoes). After I had a talk with my son (where he was extremely disappointed about not getting to watch the video), we got right in the car and returned it. Now he has to earn back the right to check out a movie again. To me, this seemed like a good punishment.

But, what do we do next time we have a "serious" problem like that? What do you do? I want to have a few ideas up my sleeve that are age appropriate that I can deliver to him calmly. I"m working on my "love and logic" parenting and thought I'd see what you parents did?


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answers from Cumberland on

I think you did the right thing-I think you handled it well-you were crystal clear about where you stand on spitting-and you are lucky to have a united front with your husband. Good effort!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We follow logical consequences when punishing our kids (7 & 9).

For example; our 9 yo is allowed to play out front by himself. Yesterday he knocked on friends doors and asked them to play after we had told him not to. Consequence - he can't play out front by himself for a week. This is huge to him, because frequently I have things to do and can't go out - so if he can't go out alone he can't go out at all. This morning my 7 yo was playing with her itouch instead of getting ready for school, so the itouch was put away.

For the spitting (or yelling, hitting, sassing, etc), if you can't behave nicely around others then you can't be around others. Send him to his room, which means activities (like the video) that would take place in other rooms don't take place.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Do you know people in real life who have children under control and obedient that you would like to emmulate in your own family? Do you know people with older children/teens who are respectful and honoring to their parents? My advice would be to find these people and ask them what they are doing/did with their children. The advice you get here is from strangers. You have no idea what their children are like. It is my experience that people have a lot of opinions, but very few people actually are doing things that really have good, consistent, and desirable results. I see people on here saying that spanking is evil and wrong, yet in another post will admit that their children are brats (as an example). Go to the people you know in real life to get real life results. I would be very hesitant to take advice on here about raising children unless you actually saw the fruit of the advice given. It's just too important to do it that way. Blessings!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

OK, read a few of the responses you've already received and I've gotta say that for a 6 yo, "cleaning out their room of all nice things and then letting kids earn them back O. by O. after a week (maybe a few days for 6 years old) of good behavior, etc." sounds a LOT like punishment for me. :)

I also agree spanking is not effective for a 6 yo.

Extra chores--maybe--but do you want chores to be a dreaded concept?

I think that returning the video was a powerful punishment--way to go!
Usually, something like that scenario works for us (not going to abc, no trip for xyz)
AND we send our son (almost 8) to his room to cool off and think about what he's done and he stays there until he's got a sincere apology ready.

And the removal of access to electronics is always a good O. for us: computer, Wii, DS....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think the fact that you stepped away to calm down and have a brief chat with your hubby was good.

We have a 16 yr old daughter. When we needed to use punishment, we took her favorite toys, game, playdates, etc. As she has grown older, it has been her laptop, IPhone, Ipod, CHI iron and since she got her DL it is her car keys and driving priviledges.

We've been very fortunate and she has been a great kid. All kids make mistakes. We as parents need to keep our cool and not act out of anger.

Sounds like you did a great job, mom!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We've done grounding, fines (basically making them hand back their allowance), taking away the cords and essentials but not the console of a video game, taking toys/games, taking tv time and friend time, extra chores, time out....

I think the video punishment was a good one. You made your point.

I've found that there is no one-size-fits-all way to get through to kids, and not all kids respond the same way and not all kids respond the same way each time.

Another thing I think is really important for boys is to learn to channel aggression. Friends got their son in martial arts and we got my stepson into sports. It helped them have a positive and appropriate outlet. Depending on the situation, you might need also to take your son aside and talk to him. Help him put words on his feelings, and remember appropriate things to do. Friend's son got upset one time at my house and threw something at my daughter. She took her son (4) on her lap and helped him calm down and reminded him how to treat his friends.



answers from Appleton on

I might offer a different opinion here:

Where is the motivation coming from to not spit on you again? Is it coming from the FEAR of having something dear to him taken away? Or is it coming from the intrinsic motivation to treat you nicely and to get along? Will he think about different (and more appropriate) ways to channel his anger the next time or will he simply be afraid of the power you have to take away something he likes?

I would use reasoning and have a long talk about WHY exactly spitting on you is wrong. Talk about how you felt when he spit and how upset you were. Ask him what he was feeling that made him want to spit on you. Then I might investigate ways to ease the frustrations of being in the car and picking up his brother. Ask him how you and him can solve the problem together. Tell him you want to work with him and get to the bottom of what's really getting to him at this time of day. Ask him to think of solutions (special toy for just in the car, the idea of doing a fun activity when he gets home), Find ways to help him conquer strong anger or dispell it. This helps him get a handle on difficult emotions and also problem solve. And those are good things to learn that I think punishment cannot teach. Punishment teaches only obedience.

I have 2 and 4 yo boys. We don't use punishments (or rewards for good behavior), but I'll be the first to admit I don't know what the future will bring in terms of difficult decisions about discipline for my boys. This is just what's working for us right now.

The best piece of parenting advice I read was "The secret of parenting is not in what a parent DOES but rather who the parent IS to a child." It's about right relationship and attachment, not any technique or skill to use on a child. I look for ways to work with my kids to solve problems rather than throw around my authority to banish one to a room or take something away. It's not their fault they are uncivilized and it's my job to teach them.

Anyway, I just throught I'd throw out a different opinion. If you're into reading parenting books, a good one is "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn. Certainly opened my eyes about discipline and the merits of punishment.

Good luck!

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