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To stop using 'punishment' as a behaviour consequence.I'm totally floundering.

(78 Posts)
gertrudetrain Thu 16-May-13 17:52:10

I have used everything. Bribery, naughty step, counting, quiet but firm voice, shouting, grounding, withdrawing privileges, ignoring, killing with kindness, love bombing, strict routines, consistent responses, clear boundaries, locking in rooms crying. I am devastated to admit that I have even resorted to smacking once.

I work in Children's services, I know all about attachment, additional needs, I know about parenting capacity, I know about parental response conditioning child behaviours. I may know this. I can not, however, get my 3 dc's to behave. DS1 has just railroaded and manipulated me as he always does when my parents are here. DS2 refused to leave the park without being dragged out. Toddler DD will not stop tan trumming and asking for food and drink. They are 10, 5 and 2 years. Punishment just does not work. Do I just explain that what they have done is wrong and stop with the ineffectual sanctions, just communicate their bad behaviour verbally? Society only uses 'punishment' techniques for adults who do something very wrong e.g breaking the law. Should I just go with this? If they do something law breaking only punish them then? I know even typing that it is a ridiculous idea. Things are so bad that I no longer have any confidence in my mothering. I need a bunch of strangers on the internet to say either 'yes just communicating will work' or 'don't be ridiculous, children need tangible consequences you must be doing it wrong'. I am crap.

Tryharder Thu 16-May-13 17:56:41

I am crap, as well. I have 3 DCs similar ages and I am tearing my hair out half the time.

It's not you, it's them grin

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 16-May-13 17:58:34

I've got one 2yr old and I can't do it. Three would break me! Just how do they get u to ARGH so damn quick?!?

Firstly, you have tried everything so it suggest that there isn't a consistent pattern in what you are doing.

Secondly - dragging a 5 year old out of the park and toddlers tantruming for food are pretty universal experiences. Your children are not being especially badly behaved by doing them - they are just been young children.

Pick your battles and make the consequences relevant to the situation.
e.g. if getting your 5 year old out of the park is a real hassle tell them that you will give them once chance to leave with you otherwise next time you go to the park they will have to sit with you for 10 mins (i.e. forever when you are 5) rather than play. I must admit I probably wouldn't make too big a deal of a 5 yr old not wanting to leave a park.

belfastbigmillie Thu 16-May-13 17:59:31

There are books you can get on amazon that are about punishment-free parenting. Hopefully someone will link to one for me.

I think punishment will work for some children but not others. It never worked for my elder child. You could give him every punishment going and he'd just see it as a challenge. I am very strong willed and so is he. I tend not to bother with punishments. I do a lot of talking, allow 'natural consequences' to occur (within reason) and if their behaviour is foul somewhere then I just state that we won't be returning to Xplace until their behaviour improves. I also use their bedrooms as 'calm down' zones - not sent there as a punishment as such, but more to give them some time in a quiet environment to calm down and reflect. After a while, they will come back down and we deal with things or I go up to talk to them. Mostly, it works better I think.

BastardDog Thu 16-May-13 18:00:20

I'm crap too. I can't win, they won't collaborate or cooperate. All I can do is sit tight and hope they leave home sooner rather than later. The army, university, a squat, whatever. Just go and leave me in peace to nurse my sense of failure.

ilovevenice Thu 16-May-13 18:01:12

You are NOT crap. By posting here you've shown you're a concerned parent who's struggling with the same stuff we are. I don't really have any words of wisdom but perhaps you need to persevere with an approach consistently rather than chopping and changing? Do you have a DP who can support you?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:01:41

Things I use/have used

reasonable punishments - you broke something, you fix it

counting down - eg I want you to come for your dinner in 10 seconds, then count down

"I bet you can't"
Racing - I'll race you to the park gate

Prevention - hunger/tiredness

Playful parenting - the book Playful Parenting is good

Family discussions - with recurring arguments, we'll have an everybody gets their turn discussion and says how they feel and what they want from the others

stickers on coats for things like walking holding hands

verbal praise for all the good things, lots of thankyous

The only sanctions I have ever used is that they need to go away, calm down, and I will go and talk to them and ask them to apologise, if necessary.

Overall, I think the biggest undermining factor is our own stress, which makes us over-react. Children sense fear.

Also, my own tendency is to get into arguing the toss, and to pick up on the rude words, not the reason behind them Sometimes you have to ignore the rudeness


Sirzy Thu 16-May-13 18:02:20

I agree with Chaz.

With regards to consequences it needs to be something they care about. Whether that is taking a favourite toy away for a period of time or not doing a certain activity.

As you will know it is better to focus on the positives as much as possible and reward the good behaviour to encourage them to continue that.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:03:38

And yes - is something really a big problem, or are you catastrophising and thinking that if , say your 5 year old is like this now, what will they be like at 13? (something I also do)

Cakecrumbsinmybra Thu 16-May-13 18:05:22

I did think the same as chaz regarding the list of everything you have tried.

I also agree about 5 yr old leaving park and 2 yr old tantrumming are v normal. I have a 2.5 yr old DS2 at the moment and he is driving me insane with tantrums, and he also constantly asks for things like ice creams - just whatever he sees really "treat" wise, and he whines incessantly about "mummy cuddles". I see him as harder work than some toddlers, but still pretty normal, and you can't really "punish" them at 2, so take the 2 year old out of the equation.

Are they really badly behaved or driving you insane on certain things that could perhaps be avoided?

Sirzy Thu 16-May-13 18:06:09

*"I bet you can't"
Racing - I'll race you to the park gate

Prevention - hunger/tiredness*

These two I think are great, or certainly work for DS (3.5).

The counting down doesn't work with him though as he likes to use it as a chance to show off that he can count. Last week he told me off (I was mean and wouldn't give chocolate for breakfast) by counting down so that is off my list of possible techniques now.

Thats the thing though every child is so different you have to find what works for you and them.

Cakecrumbsinmybra Thu 16-May-13 18:07:25

grin BastardDog (or at least I hope you can see the funny side!)

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:09:05


I found I coped least when I was unhappy in myself. I addressed this, I felt less helpless

gertrudetrain Thu 16-May-13 18:13:02

Do you know what, no they aren't really badly behaved. I have looked at my expectations and I know I can sometimes expect too much. They're not bad but they just annoy me so so much. I think I don't deal with the half formed brain too well. I catastrophise so much about how they will turn out and I think my anxiety comes out when they are naughty because I think I'm failing them. I want to do better so I don't have to tell them off so much but I know parenting is about telling off sometimes. Belfast- your ideas sound like something to try. I do tend to jump around strategies which is confusing for me, so it will confuse DC's even more. Thanks for all replies. Glad some if you are crap too, but I'm the crappest grin

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:15:24

You do sound like me.

I enjoy mine the older they've got.

I think the Playful Parenting book might loosen you up a bit (it did me). although be prepared to gnash your teeth a bit - the author clearly only has one child and hasn't got much to say about parenting more than one at a time.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:18:23

My oldest once said to me "you get all shouty when you are worried" - out of the mouths of babes ...

gertrudetrain Thu 16-May-13 18:20:52

I find them easier to interact and communicate with the older they get defo but I then worry about getting the balance between friend / parent. I don't want to be too friendly! But I've found being hyper strict hasn't worked either.

Playful parenting sounds good but did you feel a bit hmm about being taught to be playful? Plus the multiple parenting is the key thing I struggle with. Give me one I'm fine, 3 at once is a diff story. DH is around but not much due to long working hours.

ppeatfruit Thu 16-May-13 18:21:22

One of the best ideas of a T.V. behaviourist that I watched was to take each child out for a treat separately .Somewhere they like and listen to them and react pleasantly (don't lecture them).

This helped 3 DCs a lot because it encouraged their self esteem. As an ex CM/nanny and EYs teacher and Mof 3 I found that fairness when you're dealing with them is respected by them a lot. (e.g. allow turns to watch T.V. or whatever and make sure they hear you saying to the youngest "no you've had your half an hour now give the middle Dc her turn") That shows you aren't favouritising (sorry horrible word!) the youngest and hopefully will behave more reasonably .

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:22:12


well I think i'd forgotten how it feels to be a child, and play is so important to children, so..

gertrudetrain Thu 16-May-13 18:22:29

Jamie your child is a genius! Exactly what I do. Then feel crap about it afterwards.

gertrudetrain Thu 16-May-13 18:24:57

I meant I feel a bit hmm that actually I am not playful, I used to be, but life has got in the way and how rubbish of me that I've forgotten the beauty of it. My poor dc's grin

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 18:25:09

I'm afraid I think you've got to segment this out a bit, and look at the worst thing for each child. Children don't respond in the same way or at least my two didn't at all, one of mine was quite easy to get to toe the line with a 1,2,3 and my other would let me count to 100, go purple, throw the book at her and still laugh as she carried on doing the very annoying thing I said not to do five minutes earlier. With that child, getting in very early, with a very no-nonsense warning 'if you do x, we will not come to the park tomorrow' and an immediate follow-through, or even put in time-out (for a screaming paddy til she said sorry) worked best; what worked worst was ignoring it, distraction, paying positive attention, she just thrived on the attention and carried on. That method would have been way over the top for my second child and quite intimidating for her, she needed a much more gentle approach and would quite easily fall back into line if incentivised (I'll race you to the steps if you do XYZ, I bet I can put my coat on quicker than you).

You are not crap, but you have very high expectations of yourself and sometimes the children (toddler tantrumming will not make the headlines). Also, you have a range of ages, so there can't be a perfect solution for all of them as they are not really at the same stage. An older child need more independence, so I think a sanction such as 'no computer for tomorrow if you don't get off it nicely today' is just fine but nonsensical to a two year old.

You are not alone!!!

jelliebelly Thu 16-May-13 18:29:29

I agree with those that have suggested you have maybe tried too many techniques. Different strategies will however be required for different children but once you've decided you need to stick to it so they know where they stand.

Also rewarding good behaviour rather than punishing bad all the time can redress the balance sometimessmile

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 16-May-13 18:32:13

I think that attitude is key. Once you get it straight in your hed that it is OK for them to be upset sometimes, that helps.

Another good book is "Saying No" by Asha Philips. She's a child psychotherapist (I think) so it's not all behavioural as it sounds. It makes you think about your attitudes to parenting

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