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Author Topic: Tough parenting and reasonable punishments - how far can/should you go?  (Read 439 times)

Offline Duffield1

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We are constantly hearing about the 'snowflake' generation, and based on my own experiences with other children's parents blaming everyone but themselves or their kids for bad behaviour (my 'favourite' being a girl whose parents claimed she had ADHD who dosed her up on blue-coloured energy drinks before every assessment so she was bouncing off the walls), I would agree that many children today have a remarkable sense of entitlement.

Being a parent is tricky - walking the line between knowing that your child can talk to you about any concerns, whilst trying to keep an objective view on what they are doing is hard - but I am interested in a story in the press today.

A boy (in the USA) was banned from the school bus for three days for bullying other pupils and bad behaviour in class.  His father's punishment was to make him run to and from school each day he was banned, following him in the car. 

Now, is that a reasonable punishment or not?  Applying my own experiences of teenagers, I am amazed that the kid agreed to it - most that I know would have simply refused, or sat on the pavement and wailed, so I have to wonder what sat behind the punishment that made him stick with it?  What was the ultimate sanction that would make this the lesser of two evils, or was there such a relationship of parental respect that they didn't need that? 

I agree wholeheartedly that we should be parents to our children first, and if we can also be friends, marvellous, but the steering hand is more important.

In our house, punishments are usually withdrawal of privileges - TV, tablets, trips out - rather than proactive punishments, but I'm undecided about this physical punishment.  What do you think?  Spare the rod and spoil the child?


Offline P-Kasso2

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Duffield, this is a massively complex question and so full of variables that every parent will probably have their own personal answer. That said, here is my own personal view...

When my two children (one boy, one girl) were small I was took the view that children need the protection and warmth of the family but they also need guidance. In essence I think children need rules as much as adults do.

To me, it is a 'must' that all guidance given to a child should be clear, be consistent and, above all, be made easily understandable to the young child even though the child's intellect is not as developed as the parent's.

Obviously, in any family group the mother and father have to be effectively the tribe's 'alpha males' - and children are essentially followers. While I believe that children should have clear lines of what is and what isn't acceptable behaviour, I also believe that crossing the line cannot, and must not, go untreated - otherwise the children will develop what will essentially be embryonic anarchy, and anarchic children will destroy the family.

It's a truism that a family works best when all members of the family have the family's long-term interests at heart - but this is a very difficult and abstract concept to instil in a young child.

Patience and love is the best way to achieve this. I think that we mature and grown up adults really cannot expect young inexperienced children to react to  'tough love' in any other way except as to see it as punitive, violent, and unnecessarily harsh. In essence I believe that all 'tough love' achieves is to make children 'behave' through fear and dread of reprisals.

But what if the child is slightly older, and is already developing into being an incorrigible 'repeat  offender'? I can well see how many parents might despair and turn to progressively harsher and harsher or tougher and tougher forms of 'tough love' to teach their child a lesson.

The question then is "How tough should 'tough love' be?" Parents must use any strict guidance or 'tough love' very much as the last resort, to be turned to only when all else has failed.

Parents must look deeply at their reasons for resorting to 'tough love' and hopefully they will place more emphasis on the 'love' rather than the 'tough'. But not all parents are the same, and some parents might far overstep the 'toughness level' required to teach a child what behaviour is expected of them.

Sadly, I know that not all parents are equally well-equipped to decide on what level of tough love to apply. Your terrible example of the parent of the boy in America making his son run to school is an example of this - I would have opted to make my child run to school every day, but I would have also run it with him rather than following him in a car.

My own father was an example of a good but strict-ish parent. When I crossed the line his 'punishments' were usually very creative - such as when I was five years old he banned me from going out for a month and said that I'd have to stay in and learn five new words a day every day.

But here is the killer punch - My father promised me that he too would stay in and learn five new words a day with me as well. So we spent every evening for a month poring through his big old dictionary together. If that was an example of 'tough love' then I only remember the 'love' part of it - and I now see that I learned from it and I behaved  better' out of love rather than out of abject fear.

It's a good recipe for instilling a sense of the need for good behaviour in a child - and it's certainly a far better recipe for a child than any Guantanimo Bay form of 'tough love'.
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