Thursday, November 17, 2005

Odd Punishments for Children

The two news stories that are linked to this post have odd approaches to punishing children for perceived bad behavior.

In one story, a principal led an 8-year-old girl from class to class call out to other students that the girl was a liar and a thief. She is no longer the principal of the school. She has resigned the position. It turns out that the 8 yr old was not guilty of stealing $5.00 from another student, but the principal never check in to the story and the girl was never formally punished. (Unless of course you consider the action the principal did take.) The accusing student has since recanted the accusation. This is the reason for the 'perceived bad behavior' phrasing.

Link 1

In the second story herein linked, a 14-year-old girl was given a different sort of punishment by her mother. The girl was being constantly late to classes, talking back to her mother and her teachers and getting bad grades as a freshman in High School.

After attempting to get the girls attention for her behavior by telling her she could no longer play basketball or compete in track for the school. The mother took her to a busy intersection in the downtown of the city in which they live and made the girl stand on the corner with a sign that read " Don't do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food." As I am sure you can guess, there was a negative reaction to this situation. On person driving by called the police to report that psychological abuse was taking place. After giving a report the police asked the mother and daughter to leave the corner which they did. The police, follow what I am sure is a department policy, refered the case to the state for handling as a 'child abuse' type case, as there was no criminal act involved.

Link 2

I really don't feel the need to even discuss the first story any further. I mean after all it seems pretty obvious what is wrong there.

The second story I have to spill my thought on. For one thing I am not sure that 1 hour of humiliating a child is going to damage them for life. The girl herself has acknowledged that the punishment got her attention and her behavior has turned around completely. She has even stated that she is hoping to get her grades up to the level where she can return to playing basketball and track next year.

I am not sure I completely agree with the approach the mother took in this case, but I am not sure that the punishment wasn't effective when the girl herself is saying and showing it was. I actually would say that as long as this isn't going to be a regular punishment, and I didn't get the sense from article that it was, then a one time punishment isn't that horrible. The final comments in the article deal with the 'positive' reinforcement, rather than 'negative' reinforcement. I have to say that if you only approach a child with positive reinforcement I don't think you are going to get a solid response.

WSister-In-Law and Her Husband used a time-out system for a while, and then when WNiece 1 and WNephew 1 (W indicates Wife's side of family) were old enough graduated to a ticket system and the removal of toys if they were mis-behaving. They have since modified the ticket system where instead of a 3 strikes and you are in your bedroom system it is each ticket represents a 15 minute period, and if one is taken away the child goes to early by those increments.

WNiece1 and WNephew 1 are some of the best behaved kids I have associated with in a substantial period of time. Are they perfect, of course not. (As I tell my wife, I'm perfect, everyone else is human.) The kids actually listen to not only their parents, but their grandparents and most importantly (at least from my personal situation) their Aunt and Uncle. (They also are very loving kids who are actually fun to be around and are very capable of carrying on a 'high level' of conversation.)

I guess the point of this whole post is that I don't think that any particular method of punishment/reward system is horrible ( with in reason of course. Beating the tar out of child, or continually using the humilation type of punishment is not included here.) or necessarily the only answer. The real key is two fold in my opinion. (And you can take this for what it is worth as I have exactly zero children.) 1. Continually showing and telling the child/children that you love them, and 2. that what ever method is use is used consistently. (Again there is an issue of not turning anything you do into abuse, and even 'positive' reinforcement can be taken to far.)

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