Mum's the Word

Crime and punishment

Posted: Mar. 30, 2017 3:11 pm Updated: Mar. 30, 2017 3:19 pm

Sometimes kids make bad decisions.


Not shocking since adults also make very bad decisions ... however, as a parent we find ourselves in the role of prosecutor.

Sometimes their bad decision leads to natural consequences and we can sit back and watch, smugly declaring, "I told you." Frankly, I like this one best.

Other times we have to step in and, in doing so, provide a seemingly natural consequence to whatever dumb thing they did now.

Don't make me get up to parent!

Confession: I have literally told the kids if I have to get up to parent them, they'd be sorry.

All you have to do is listen to the words coming out of my mouth! Maybe not my shining moment, but we all have those occasionally.

Anyway, how do we make the punishment fit the crime?

Time out: It's fine for youngsters. Now that they are older I ask them to take some time in their room as more of a "let's have some quiet time to reflect (and when you feel like being less of a tool you can come out)" pause than a punishment. This time I find necessary if they won't stop whining, crying or complaining and often tell them as they stomp up the stairs that their pillow can't wait to hear about it.


I use this tactic, but feel it's the equivalent of throwing my hands in the air and saying, "You've crossed the line and I'm not sure what else to do with you!" Now that my kids are getting older, it seems like punishments need to be more thought out, without going down the King Herod road of an eye for an eye. Like if you push your sister into a wall, I think that pushing you into the wall or allowing your sister to push you doesn't really get it done. It focuses on pushing when all I want is for people to stop touching each other.

It's also teaching you that once you're the boss, you are allowed to push people, when what I want to teach is: Don't push people into walls.

What is the opposite of pushing?! Go to your room!

I've actually made them hold hands for a short period of time and threatened a three-legged race (long story).

Other misdemeanors are easy to sort out. For example, if they make a mess, they are responsible for picking it up and maybe picking up another mess of my choice depending on my mood. Oh, you wanna knock over my folded laundry piles? You fold all the laundry!

Nobody messes with the laundry!

I know I'm so judicial in that I feel there needs to be a hard punishment for crimes I deem more heinous than others even if there are natural consequences.

Lying is one of those. The natural consequence is you lose my trust. I like to follow up with an immediate illustration of what a lie does: It removes you from the group. The easiest way to do this is to exclude the one who has lied from a game, just one, and explain that I only play Uno with people I can trust and can't play Uno with someone who might not follow the rules. Like I said, a little judicial but I find this tends to give them the incentive they need to indeed want to be in my good graces. I further explain that the truth, however much trouble it brings, allows for forgiveness and rebuilding ... and then I usually monologue for another 10 minutes about my feelings on lying.

There is always forgiveness and love in the end.

... and maybe wine.

It's hard fighting crime.

Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.

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