Punishments: What works/what doesnt?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by comatheart, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. comatheart

    comatheart Guest

    So it seems a lot of you have difficult child's that don't learn from their mistakes with any kind of consequence, natural or otherwise.

    So what punishment does work?

    If you can't find anything that works what do you do? I mean, do you just keep doing the same thing over and over again hoping that one day it will sink in? It's not like you can just sit back and let them get away with it.

    We are plum out of ideas for our difficult child. With the last item he stole husband became infuriated, slapped our son (highly out of the ordinary!) and tripled the amount he had to pay back. We initially told him he had to earn money to pay for all the things he's stolen. That just seems like a given under the circumstance but beyond grounding him from everything I dont know what else to do.

    I'm just as frustrated as husband is, but I don't see how tripling the amount of money difficult child has to pay is going to do. Am I being naive?

    Help! Ideas please!
    Lasted edited by : Jul 30, 2010
  2. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

  3. comatheart

    comatheart Guest

    Sorry, I added my signature.

    He is 14. I look forward to any and all responses. Thanks SO much!
  4. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    For our difficult child, we redirect/distract/keep safe in crisis and then in a calm moment we talk about choices/feelings. We used to rely heavily on reward systems, time out and taking away privileges- those strategies rarely worked. Honestly, we have discovered that when he is able to do the right thing... he does it (regardless of reward) and when his mood/anxiety are ramped up his impulsivity and decision-making capabilities really prevent him from following a reward/punishment system.
  5. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I like how Whatamess handles this. Another thing that I think I just read in a post within the last few days was to take the paying back one step forward in that the child has to GO TO THE STORE to find the item and purchase it himself (with adult supervision along the way). I thought that was AWESOME!!! You know how hard it is to find something in a store that you normally don't look for? It is WORK!!! Then to SEE the price of the item (not just be told by parents) and watch it being rung up with possible tax added on. It may not work, but it is worth a try!

    I think that tripling the price is rather harsh and I bet it was done out of anger. It is so easy for our anger to want to pound the lesson in so severly that he/she has to take notice but than most of the time the focus gets off the offense and on to emotions (yours) and then the wrong lessons are learned causing further strife in the family. If your husband can come to terms with going back to the original price (or replacement price if the cost rose) it may go a long way for him to apologize for letting his anger get the best of him but still stand for what is right.
  6. comatheart

    comatheart Guest

    Thanks for the replies so far.

    Hehehe, Andy that was us that made our son to back to the store himself and purchase all of the items himself with the money he worked to earn. We too thought it was ingenious and the perfect learning experience but apparently it wasn't. -At least not for our difficult child. :-(

    So what do all of you do when your SO refuses to get on the same page? My husband is so angry and all of his decisions are being made in anger. He wanted to triple the price, then decided our difficult child didn't need to come out of his room except to eat, use the bathroom and work. (the room has been stripped to very little so basically he can just stare at the posters on the wall) Then decided difficult child wasn't allowed to speak without asking and he needed to address us by "Yes sir, Yes ma'am". Then decided he would wake him up at 6am when he went to work, put him outside with a jug of water and make him stay outside all day working in the yard. husband is all over the place, constantly adding onto the punishment, increasing it or otherwise. All the time I'm thinking he's just making this all worse for difficult child in that he's not going to learn anything from it except perhaps resentment towards US. husband says I am to weak or soft and don't want to punish him at all. As you can imagine this is causing major turmoil in our marriage and you better bet difficult child is picking up on that!
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I didn't read the other responses so I'm just coming out with a new perspective of my own.

    Typical kids tend to respond to the sort of consequences AND natural consequences that psychologists talk about and instruct us to do.

    Atypical teens can be very resistant to anything. The best weapon I had when my daughter started taking drugs (and I hope you don't ever have to go there) was the car, but eventually we had to take her license away from her anyway and we didn't have much ammo because she did what she wanted to do no matter w hat we told her to do. And we tried everything.

    I know this isn't helpful, but I want you to know that difficult kids are DIFFICULT and the very defiant ones just will not listen and it's not your fault. You keep trying, that's all you can do. Now I have a son on the autism spectrum whom I call a difficult child, but his behavior is actually pretty good. He WANTS to do well and not get into trouble, so he responds to any sort of discipline almost too much (I hear him saying in his room "I'm such an idiot" "I did such a bad thing") and this is only over little stuff because he never does really bad things. difficult children are all different. The extremely defiant ones are extremely hard to reign in and all we can do is try. (((Hugs))) Wish I had more stuff that had worked for me to pass along.
  8. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Comaheart - I have to say I understand where your husband is coming from. It's pretty surreal to have a kid who just refuses to comply with such a *simple* social rule - don't steal. We're not talking rocket science here, you know? I think your husband is just reacting with anger and frustration... but his idea of consequences I don't think are going to be successful. Discipline based on the parent's anger and frustration just doesn't work, in my experience (been there done that, LOL). Not being on the same page is tough on a marriage - maybe give him the opportunity to calm down a bit and then sit down with him to come up with- a plan together?

    With difficult child's inability to grasp this very simple rule, I think I would make his world very very small. No more going to stores. I would make it for a set time - a month, 6 weeks, whatever you think is appropriate. Then very slowly allow him more freedom, aka the opportunity to prove to you that he can be trusted again. Personally, if theft occurs again, I would strongly encourage the victim to press charges. Your son is 14 - I don't think it's unreasonable for him to experience "real world" consequences. Sometimes they make far more of an impact than anything we can do at home.

    You also need to lock up anything at home you don't want stolen - I know it's a total pain in the neck, but sometimes the only thing we can do is remove the opportunity.

    At the same time, I'm wondering where things stand in terms of his depression and treatment. Is he still in therapy/on medications?
  9. comatheart

    comatheart Guest

    He goes to a counselor weekly but in 7-8 months they haven't gotten any where because my difficult child will not talk. He answers questions asked of him, but that's as far as it goes. He also takes Celexa.
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Kristen, welcome!

    Has your son gotten worse since he started Celexa?
  11. comatheart

    comatheart Guest

    Thanks for the welcomes!

    No, the Celexa seemed to help him more than any of the others he tried for the depression symptoms. We feel like it was working because he stopped isolating himself in his room all day and actually went out and made a friend in the neighborhood. He's been on it for about 7 months now. He's obviously still depressed but not nearly as much as he previously was and we were afraid to rock the boat by trying yet another one.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    While your husband is reacting out of anger (which is still very understandable, however) then difficult child will be pulling back the other way out of anger and spite. He won't get the message and the harder you punish, the less the lesson will get learned. What is needed is not anger, but calm, considered response from parents. Not easy when you're so angry.

    Also, if difficult child won't talk to the counsellor, do you talk instead? I would suggest you talk about difficult child in his presence as if he's not there, if he refuses to respond. Make it your own counselling session, if you like. If/when difficult child objects, then tell him it's up to him, if he will take over and use the sessions for himself, you won't have to give just your own perspective on things.

    What difficult child needs in discipline is not necessarily either harshness or leniency. What he needs is consistency, and justice. Consistency is most important. The lesson of going to the store to buy replacement goods with his own money is one of the best - it is natural consequences. It should have worked. If you feel it did not work, then it is time to totally re-think what is going on. There is no sense punishing someone for something they cannot help, or cannot change. It sounds to me like something else is going on here.

    The purpose of punishment is to act as a deterrent to the unwanted behaviour. The intent is that the deterrent is going to be greater than the desire to do the wrong thing. But what if he is getting a bigger payoff and high from stealing? Where is he getting the pay-off? Is it a thrill? Is it a sense of superiority over the people he has stolen from? Does he steal good he can use, or does he steal nonsense, stuff that has more trophy value for him than anything else?

    There is something seriously wrong here, I feel, and your husband's anger is blinding him to the possible worse stuff going on. You two shouldn't be fighting about this, but again - it happens, it is understandable. This is not about blame. Neither you nor husband is likely to be responsible for this. But you both have to be able to work together if there is to be a chance of a solution.

    If you can, show this post to husband. He sounds like a good man who is frantic to help his son, but doesn't know where to start. This site is for parents, not just mothers, we have dads here too plus partners. My husband lurks here mostly, but reads everything I post and then we talk about it all together. We've found that what you post tends to be a more concentrated distillation of your thoughts, and sometimes gets the message across more effectively, than simply talking it through.

  13. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    Punishments at most might get short term compliance , may teach a kid to think what happens to me if I get caught , and the lesson he learns is not to get caught in the future - not the lesson we think we are teaching - and certainly we are not teaching responsibility, caring and empathy.

    Kids would prefer to do well if they could so we need to find out what's getting in their way and we can't do that without input . We can't get input and cooperation if there is blame and punishment. If we choose to treat the situation as a problem to be solved and we want the kid to be part of the solution we need to forget about punishment and focus on solutions and restitution. The solution will treat the underlying problem and address the concerns of your child and your concerns opening the way for your son on his own to try and engage in the moral act of restitution. When we step back we allow the positive side of the kid to come forward , but when we do to kids , we just push them from us , the punishment just reinforces the perception that adults are unfair. There is plenty research showing the bigger the punishment , the less the internalization of the message.

    We can use a litmus test for our interventions - does it promote relationship , self esteem and vision , and skills of the kid.

    I would have a discussion and say we have the problem that ' money from stolen' and we feel that you have to part of the solution. We want an honest conversation , no talk about blame or punishments , just trying to understand why it happened , what was challenging you and then come up with a mutually satisfying solution to the problem . We also will need ideas from you about making amends, restitution, and most important rebuilding trust.
    We need to trust you and you need to learn to trust us. How can we trust again?

    If we try to promote trust, responsibility and caring , we have to work with the child and help him connect with a deep inner core of his true values , the type of person he truly wants to be . Threats , punishments, consequences and fear don't promote responsibility and values

    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010