Jumped the Synapse: Thoughts without sponsors!

These are my thoughts that don't fit in my other blogs. They'll eventually cover a large range of topics.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"Crime" and Punishment for Children

Crime and Punishment
(abbreviated version for parents)

Inside chores, here, and outside chores, here.

In the scheme of child-raising, it must be remembered that punishment and withdrawal of privileges ranks in a lower order, below more positive responses such as:

1. Patience;
2. Keeping things in perspective;
3. Pointing the child in a positive direction;
4. Using positive words, images, and values to move the child away from the undesirable behavior being exhibited;
5. Cajoling (rather than ordering) to move a stuck child;
6. Shared friendships;
7. Relationship building (doing activities together, being emotionally and/or physically “on-side” with the child, etc);
8. Rewards for good behaviour;
9. And so on … (limited only by your imagination)

Having listed a few higher order potential responses there are, however, times when you are either too tired or lazy to engage these ideas or times when, despite the above notions, punishment or withdrawal of privilege is entirely appropriate.

Consider your goal – what are you trying to achieve?
The base standard to always remember here is that your goal is to move the child, particularly an ED (emotionally disabled) child, towards a positive future. In that, it is always helpful to ask yourself a few quick questions before doling out, or even mentioning, any punishment. These questions should include:

1. What am I trying to achieve with this punishment or withdrawal of privilege, in the short term, and in the long-term?
2. Is there a better, higher order method available (rather than punishment) which is likely to achieve similar results?
3. Is this particular punishment or withdrawal of privilege likely to achieve the short term goal? What about the long-term goal?
4. Am I calm enough to make a proper, measured, response to the issue? (If you are raising your voice, or have a strong or persistent negative tone, then the answer is probably “not yet”)

If you can’t answer these questions reasonably, then you probably need to take a “time out” yourself to cool down and think. Persistent failure to answer these questions satisfactorily will almost inevitably result in the long-term diminution of what you claim are your goals with the child. Proceed when you are able to answer these questions satisfactorily.

Consider time-frame, severity, attachment and immediacy
One of the most important things in using punishment or withdrawal of privilege is ensuring that the severity is appropriate. This is so that the child doesn’t lose hope in having some positive outcomes (this may need to be pointed out – ie, “Do these things now and you’ll be able to watch your favourite TV show in one hour”, etc). Without hope on the part of the child, your punishment is likely to be seen as unduly harsh, and may even result in their outright refusal to comply with the punishment or withdrawal of privilege. This serves no one.
Thus, make sure you consider the appropriate time-frame either for punishment/chores, or withdrawal of privileges. This may be:
  • 5 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • ½ hour
  • One hour
  • Two hours
  • Half a day
  • One full day
  • Two days
  • One week

Anything beyond one week is probably too long. Even one week with an ED child is quite a long time.

Next, consider the attachment to the various item, particularly if it involves a withdrawal of privilege. This must be considered as an important part of the severity of punishment. It is important to remember that ED children will begin to “detach” from things as a defensive mechanism, if they are being controlled by these things. Therefore, effective punishment (particularly when it involves the withdrawal of privilege) is marked by use of a wide and active variety, not using the same old thing time after time (as this will become rapidly ineffective, leaving you with less and less options – which will increase your frustration level!).

Punishment is also usually most effective when it is immediate – not some future happening. This is especially true if it involves a withdrawal of privilege at some future distant point – ie more than two days. ED children have problems understanding future consequences in terms of emotional meaning today – and it also allows them time to detach from the future item – thus lessening it’s importance.

List of alternative punishments or withdrawal of privileges:
Having said all of the above, here is the “frustration guide” to punishment or withdrawal of privilege. Just like the Yellow Pages, let your fingers do the walking:

Chores, etc
· Chores (see chore list, following these sections)

Viewing/Passive Activities
· Traditional “time out”
· Limitation of computer use (could be an amount of time, type of activity [ie MSN chat], or a particular game[s])
· Limitation of Nintendo use
· Limitation of TV time (this can be a general reduction of time allowed to watch, or removal of specific times permitted, or removal of a favourite show)
· TV, Computer, Nintendo: an alternative to removal is requiring certain behaviours in order to earn TV, computer or Nintendo time, ie zero time awarded – all must be earned.

Play/Social Connections etc
· No phone use
· No going to the park
· No playing with certain games/things
· No going out to play
· No visiting friends
· No sleep-overs
· General “grounding”
· Removal of sports activities

Things parents often pay for
· No video rentals
· No junk food purchases made, nor allowed to be eaten (ie chips, pop, slushies, etc.)
· No restaurant meals
· Other?

· Removal of allowance (should relate to items expected to be completed for allowance to be given)
· Repairing/paying for item (good only in certain circumstances)
· Monetary penalties (should have been discussed with child first)
· Removal of some future promise made, ie snowboarding (however, caution is urged here as, unless this possibility was previously expressly discussed with the child, the child will rightly see this as you acting out to a lower moral order – and thus your natural moral authority with the child is diminished!)

... another random musing


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