Creative Parents, Creative Punishments



At the age of six, our son Tucker was as curious as he was rambunctious. One day while visiting our friend, April, his curiosity got the better of him. You see, Tucker had never seen a basement, and as he reached for the door knob, April said, “I wouldn’t go down there if I were you.” He froze in wide-eyed horror and stammered “Wh-y-y-y n-n-n-ot?” Without cracking a smile, she said, “Oh, that’s our basement. That’s where we put the kids that don’t work out.” I really must thank April one day. She gave me a creative punishment gem!

Let’s face it, folks, if you have children, you know that one day you’re going to need to punish them. It is in our Job Description. We also know that one day your go-to punishment will no longer work. You’ll realize you’re going to need to switch it up. You’ll need to get creative. And THAT is when things get really interesting!

I used to give my kids chores when they fought. The idea was, their punishment should create less work for me, not more. One time my husband had our son move and stack a cord of wood for talking back…twice. When our high school daughter had reached the school’s maximum number of late arrivals, I threatened to walk her to class every day, if she was late one more time. Yeah, well, that didn’t work, because she liked it. Samantha said all her friends love me and would be happy to see me (darn!). After conducting an informal poll, I have concluded that as parents, my husband and I were not the most creative! However, many other parents are.

When Shari was five, she enjoyed picking her nose. One day her mom told her that boogers were really brain cells and that she was destroying her brain. Understandably she was terrified, and never picked her nose again.

At the age of eight, Bobby was prone to throwing tantrums, ending with threats to run away. One day, his dad called his bluff and calmly helped him pack. Softly, he said, “I know you’re anxious to get on the road, so I thought I’d help.” He bid him farewell, wishing him all the best, praising his courage as he undertook this momentous life challenge, then locked the door behind him. Bobby dragged his suitcase through the neighborhood for about 20 minutes. It was just as it started to get dark that he realized he was being followed. He jumped behind a tree and screamed in horror. He promised God that if he got through this, he would never throw another fit. Of course, it was his dad. He held his son until the tears stopped. When Bobby begged to come home, his dad said, “Yes, of course, son, we love you.” But as they reached their front door his dad stopped and turned to him, saying in a somber tone, “There’s just one thing, though. You’ll have to sleep on the couch. While you were gone, we rented out your room.”

Kylen’s mother told him that if he didn’t behave, she would be thrown out of the Mom’s Union. He didn’t know what that was, he was only a little guy, but he knew that wasn’t good. So, for a time that worked—for a time.

Jaime hated doing the dishes. Oh, she would agree to do them (it was easier to lie), but never did. One day, her mother bought her one set of floral dishes, along with a red spoon, fork, and knife. She could only use those and was responsible for keeping them clean…or not. She didn’t say if this technique broke her of the dirty dish habit. She did say that to this day (Jaime is now a mom herself), she often eats her cereal in a coffee mug!

This one is my all-time favorite. I could totally see my dad doing this. David skipped a whole week of classes in his freshman year at high school. He even forged his dad’s signature on his absence excuses. When his dad found out about this, he decided he should accompany his son to class, every class, every day, for a week. Here’s the best part: his dad was retired, so he had a lot of time to get really clever. He attended his son’s classes wearing his pajamas and slippers. He did not shave or comb his hair for a week. I think it’s safe to say David did not skip another class, e v e r again.


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