Category Archives: Discipline

Constructive Consequences

Consistency is key in parenting. If you make a rule, you have to stick to it. Every time. When your child is in school, you should try to stick to the teacher’s rules and methods, too, if possible. As much as some of us (ok, a lot of us) thought homework to be a punishment, its design and purpose is to teach something new or to reinforce something recently learned so the lesson will hopefully be retained for a long time.

Today, Em forgot to pack the homework her teacher assigned. Em was supposed to study in preparation for a science test tomorrow, so in addition to having double homework tomorrow, she’s also just learned how important homework is for her success in class. For punishment at home, Em will have to mark a negative on her behavior chart for not completing her homework correctly and we will not be going out to watch Oz The Great and Powerful as I’d planned.

After explaining to Em the importance of and reason for homework, I assigned her my own homework – NOT as a punishment, but to keep consistent with her afternoon routine. I asked her to read 3 chapters in a particular book she has on her Kindle and write at least 1 paragraph for each chapter summarizing what happened during each of them. I also explained the purpose of this, to make sure she stays focused on her reading, to make sure she understands and remembers what she read, and to help her work on proper sentence and paragraph structure. For Em, reading is never a punishment, but I made sure to emphasize that this is just in place of what she should have been doing for class.

I’m bummed that Em and I will not be able to go out to see a movie tonight and I’m sad for her that she will not be able to study properly for her test tomorrow, but I am glad to see that she understands the importance of bringing home the assignments from her teacher and is willing to accept my consequences as well.

Behavior Chart

Pennies and Problems


It’s been a long time since we’ve had to use a reward chart for “Em;” I think the last one was while she was potty training. When we did the rewards back then, she received a sticker on her chart for each successful trip to the bathroom, and when she had that mastered, she earned a sticker for each day that was accident-free. I don’t remember what the reward was for filling a chart with stickers, but it was probably something like “pick any toy from the $1 section at Target” or something like that. There was no consequence for not using the toilet, other than not receiving a sticker for that attempt/day.

However, Em is much older and consequences are now appropriate. We’ve struggled with a few behavior quirks in the past, usually related to Em’s return from her dad’s house in the summer which resolved themselves within a couple of weeks. This year these quirks have quickly evolved into full-blown behavior problems. It seemed the traditional removal of a prized possession or privilege wasn’t cutting it. I was venting my frustrations with a friend of mine and she told me about a system she’s currently using with her son who is a couple of years older than Em. I modified it a bit and this is what I ended up with:

In order to teach Em that every poor choice has a negative consequence, she loses more points than she would have gained if she’d done the right thing. Em and I each have a jar with pennies inside, every point being worth one penny. We mark off points as they happen so there is an immediate consequence, though it seems small at that exact moment. At the end of the day we total everything up; if her grand total is in the positive, we transfer the earned amount of pennies from my jar to hers. If she’s in the negative, she must give back that many pennies.

One of the major problem we were having was lying. No matter how many times I encouraged her to tell the truth to lessen the amount of consequence, the lies would just be piled one on top of another. She’s quickly learning the value of telling the truth. If, for example, she does not complete a task I asked her to do and she lies about it, she’ll end up losing 4 points, 2 for not completing the task and 2 for the lie. If she continues to lie about the task she didn’t complete, she loses another 2 points for each lie. We ran into this scenario last week and I reminded her that she’d lose fewer points if she just told the truth right away: rather than lose 4 or 6 points, she’d only lose 2 and potentially be in the positive by the end of the day if she did everything else correctly. Once Em saw the math, she understood that even if she does something wrong, telling the truth can help keep her final total in the positive.

Last week was our first week with the chart and while I wish she’d earned more pennies, at least she ended the week with some pennies in her jar. One bad day led to a serious deficit and a potential for around 30 points per week ended up with a final grand total of 9.

After I created the chart, Em and I worked together on the rewards she could earn with her pennies and came up with some ways for us to spend extra special time together with various values. The reward redemption amount starts at 50 pennies and increases in value depending on how “big” something is to Em. 50 seemed like a steep amount to start with for a “smaller” prize and I almost wavered a bit last week when I realized that it will take her at least a week and a half of “perfect” behavior to earn something, but considering the struggle we went through week 1 of this new system, I think 50 is a good number for her; it’ll help her to set a goal and see that her hard work is paying off.

Here’s hoping to a better week than last and a heavier penny jar in Em’s hands.

I need a parenting class

I’m on the verge of breaking one of the most cardinal parenting rules: not following through on a threat.

One of the things other parents tell you (including me. I’m one of those annoying “opinionators”) is that if you threaten a child with a consequence, it’ll all be for naught if you don’t follow through on it.

I don’t know if it’s the tears in her eyes, the desperation on her face or the waste of money it would be, but my latest threat to “Em” is threatening to undo me.

A couple months back we were dealing with Lies and Laundry. After a couple weeks, Em finally came around and started putting her clean clothes away.

I thought.

Now we’re back to it again. More clean clothes stashed at the bottom of her closet. Clearly the last time’s punishment wasn’t enough. So what to do? In my anger and haste, I told Em to get a garbage bag and put them inside. Her eyes became as wide as saucers and she screamed that she didn’t want to throw them away, that she wanted to keep her clothes. I replied that she’s treating the clothes like garbage, so that’s where they’ll go. I didn’t really mean it; some of these clothes are brand new! I quickly said that rather than waste the clothes by throwing them away, I’d take them to a thrift store.

Em clutched that pile of laundry so hard it took me about 5 minutes to wrench them out of her hands, all the while she’s crying and screaming that she wants them.

The gathering of clothes warped into a lesson in being grateful for things we have. I told Em that even though we don’t have a lot, we have a lot more than others do. I told her that her dance and gymnastics classes are a privilege, things she doesn’t have to have, things that cost me and my parents money and time that plenty of other children can’t do because their parents don’t have the extra money or time to take them there.

I cancelled the lunch I had planned with her and my mom today and I told her I’m considering cancelling her gymnastics and dances after she returns from her summer activities, telling her that she’s acting lazy and selfish and she shouldn’t be rewarded for her behavior. We put the garbage bag of clothes in my trunk and I dropped her off at my folks’ house on my way to work.

My problem is I don’t want to get rid of the clothes. I don’t want to cancel her extracurricular activities, especially since she’s so talented (no, really. Have you seen the picture I took of her standing on one leg with the other up in the air by her head?) and could go really far in either venue.

My threats to her were out of anger, hurt and were given very hastily. But what to do now that they’re in the air? Should I just have a frank talk with her about my unwillingness to give away perfectly good clothes that still fit and my not wanting to cancel classes that she so enjoys and excels at?

What do I do? Would it be such a horrible thing to back out of the consequences I laid before her? Would I be teaching Em she can get away with what she wants because I can’t really discipline her? I’ve always been proud of my resolve when it comes to my rules and discipline, actually having other parents ask for my opinion and thanking me later because of the results.

Would I be a horrible parent and regret my decisions years later if I follow through with these consequences?