What Should Be the Punishment?

Updated on August 16, 2011
A.K. asks from Kingwood, TX
15 answers

Yesterday, when I went out to shut up my chickens, I noticed one of them stuck in the mud by the lake. Our lake is so dangerous at the moment due to the drought, the mud is like quicksand, only much stickier. Just the chickens head was poking out. I told my son, Don't go near the mud or the lake, I am going to get your Dad. It took me about 3 minutes to run back, get the Dad, and run back to the lake, by which time my son, has got a tote box out on the mud, standing in it, and leaning way out into the muddy lake, with the tote box leaning precariously and almost tipping him into the mud face and hands first. Of course what would have happened if the box would have tipped, is that he would have died, no doubt about it.
I know he wanted to save the stupid chicken, but at almost 9 years old, he should surely have some idea, to do as he is told, and wait.
I have talked to him at length about what could have happened, but I do want to punish him further, for not listening.

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So What Happened?

The chicken, is still alive, a bit muddy!

Featured Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Aw....bless his heart--he's a sensitive soul.
What happened to the chicken?

Personally, you say he "almost" tipped into the mud. He didn't.
I would give him a stern talking to about what could have happened.
He would have died?! No doubt about it?!
Does he like Wii or the computer? You could always take that away for a week.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

I agree w/ Denise to not down play his good intentions, but to continue for a few days discussing with him just how dangerous the lake is, and go around your land with him showing him the dangerous areas and how to be smart and safe with each area. I'd be afraid with such a serious thing, if you punish it with just the category of "not listening" he will categorize it as not that serious.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Really the only thing that is going to get it into his head is actually understanding what could have happened. I run differently than most on punishments. I don't believe they must be bad but effective. What I would do is google what could have happened, or at least something similar since I doubt there would be youtubes of chickens in the mud but who knows. Maybe mud slides and the like. Show him what could have happened. That should strike the fear of god, literally, into the boy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Why punish a child for a loving selfless act? It's likely punishment enough that his mom is not happy with his decision.

Sounds like a great kid!


3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

This is so hard.

What really works for my olders is when I cry and show how upset I am that something could have happened to them (which you may have been and they may have seen).

It is so hard to punish more strictly because they don't understand how serious the situation is unless we explain it to them very clearly, and it sounds like you did that, only after the incident, not before.

My only advice would be to punish the way you normally would for not listening to serious instruction. No play dates for a week? No video games for two? Is there some way you could scare the heck out of him without traumatizing him? Maybe he could see what happens when something gets stuck in the mud and dies? Too dramatic? I am just thinking out loud here.....

I wish you the best and I hope you are not still shaken up!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I would really use it as a learning experience instead of punishing him and making him miserable. Explain what could have happened to him. That has always worked for my daughter.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

The whole point of punishment is to get the child to contemplate why a behavior or choice was wrong, to consider alternatives to that course of action, and commit to making better choices in the future.

Do you think your son understands why his choice was so risky? Do you think he'd make a more sensible choice next time (such as to wait for you to come back?) If the answers are yes, then no punishment is necessary. This situation is not too likely to happen again, and he is probably properly impressed by how dangerous that mud can be.

If you're not sure that he's gotten it, then how about having him write you a letter in which he can explain what he does understand? That will help clarify whether he needs more explanation/clarification, or whether you can trust that he understands your need for him to follow your instructions.

Requests about punishment often remind me of a time my little sister, about age 5, got lost shortly after we moved to a neighborhood with tangled, winding streets. After hours of panicked searching and getting the police involved, she was found wandering a few blocks away. My mom held it together until the nice policeman left, then lit into my sister in total fury, screaming and slapping. What she was probably feeling was both relief and the strain of the last few hours, but my little sister had been just as frightened. And she was completely baffled and heartbroken at this "welcome" home.

Where did the fault sit? Hard to say. My sister never again made whatever navigational mistake that got her lost that time, but she probably wouldn't have even if my mother had only kissed her and wept with joy. The punishment she received was a puzzlement to me then, and still is today, possibly because my mom relied way too heavily on the value of punishment to teach her children, and from my viewpoint, it was seldom necessary. A calm talk would have worked better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Not a punishment so much as a lesson.
Can you have him talk with some guys at the fire department so they can instruct him on how to properly rescue under such circumstances?
A 9 yr old is not aware of what could go wrong, but the fire department will be able to educate him.
Some places you can start volunteering at the fire department when you're 16.
It might be something that will interest your son when he gets old enough.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I would not be thinking about punishment--I would think more about what I could do differently, next time, to ensure my child's safety. I would think about helping him make safer choices in challenging terrain, if that's a situation he's likely to be in where you live, rather than following orders. Since you've explained it better to him now, I think he's likely to make safer choices the next time he's faced with this kind of situation. I don't see the need for punishment, if the goal is his safety.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

A relative of mine(teenager) was down by a muddy area and fell in and 911 had to come. A passerby saw the kids sinking and called for help thank goodness.



answers from Tampa on

this is quite difficult, because honestly, do you think your son truly understands what death even is at this age? Unless a child has experienced a loss, it is a difficult concept for a child that age to grasp. If he were my child, I would have done the same thing that you have already, and possibly would have him write something for me explaining what it would do to our family if things had gone wrong, and he had died. How would I feel, or his Dad, any siblings? What does he think would happen to him after he dies? This would give you a good look into his head to see what he thinks it all "means" and you could also have him include why it is imperitive to follow directions and listen to Mom so he can stay safe. There could be a few really good lessons reitterated in the writing, and I know that we learn things much better if we have to write them down rather than just hear them over and over. Then have him write a copy of your rules if you have a set list. If you don't, I would write up a quick list of basic ones for him to copy, and go from there. Just let him know that these are the basic rules, and not the ONLY ones, but common sense and different situations may cause them to change or the list to grow from time to time. Hope all works out, and I'm glad that he is ok!



answers from Oklahoma City on

Goodness, I think your child probably learned his lesson. Next time take a cell phone or walkie-talkie with you just in case. We do this at the farm when one of us is out mowing or doing work out of yelling distance of the house.

My BFF has goats and lots of animals and she never goes out with out her cell fully charged. She could get hurt and not be able to yell loud enough to get help. It's just safe to practice that.



answers from Cleveland on

I disagree with many of the moms answers. (sorry!)

A nine year old is old enough to understand the concept of death. (Most children comprehend it at 7) He is old enough to understand danger. He is old enough to remember what happened yesterday, so it isn't as if he won't understand why you are punishing him. And MOST of all, he is old enough to obey his mother when she gives him instructions!

Hell, yes, you should punish him! And his punishment should be that he is not allowed out of your sight for several days. Tell him you gave him clear instructions to stay away from the mud, and he didn't listen. Therefore, you cannot trust him now. He has to earn back your trust, and show you he can make good decisions. Until then, he has to stay where you can see him at all times. Because you love him too much and it would break your heart to lose him due to a poor choice.

Then make sure he stays near you - no matter where you go (even sit outside the bathroom door when you're in there) for the next few days. That should make a pretty good impression on him. Then you can start giving him a little more freedom, but start small and build on it. Let him play in another room of the house, but not go outside. Then let him go outside, but stay within 50 feet of the house. Then a little further, and so on. I'm sure you get the picture. Make him earn back your trust that he will obey and make wise choices.

That's what I would do.


answers from Washington DC on

Since it happened yesterday - there is no punishment - only a lesson learned.

Thank God nothing happened to him!!!

While I respect the fact that he wanted to save the chicken, he MUST listen to you. I would go over again the importance of listening to me especially on safety issues...he needs to LISTEN and LEARN...life is not a movie - when you die - you die.

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