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October 17, 2004

Multidimensional Punishment

Last straw. Wit's end. Last nerve.

My kids have taken me to the brink of sanity, which is the same place as the brink of madness, which is three steps beyond thoughtcrime. It's a good thing Microsoft doesn't sell thought recognition software; Jr G-Men would have had a hell of an Exhibit A this afternoon.

I tend to forget how cool I am, going way back to high school. I get it from my father's stoicism. But I know how restrained I must be considering the fact that I already had a handful of 10 year old neck I was squeezing. Suffice it to say I finally figured out the tone of voice to express my disgust. I told them in the car on the way home that I would be thinking of ways to punish them for at least an hour. That shut them up.

I lined them up in the kitchen and explained that they had 4 punishments. And if they did enough right, maybe, just maybe they could work their way out of one. They don't choose.

Punishment One: Five dollar fine.
Simple, easy, final, outsized. Considering that most fines are a quarter, I'm pretty sure that hit home.

Punishment Two: No TV
Their favorite show is America's Funniest Videos. I'm going to erase it off the Tivo as well. A nice irrevocable one.

Punishment Three: No BBQ
I fixed myself a nice juicy steak with fresh mixed veggies. They will be eating Cheerios for dinner. Easy for me, humiliating for them. I think this one is pretty good. Anyone out there have a recipe for gruel?

Punishment Four: No Desert
This is the one they can work out of if the house is spotless by 7pm. I bought a cherry pie and a pan of double fudge brownies. So this will be extra sweet either way it turns out.

I thought of another punishment that I'll have to reserve for later, which is a daddy's dress day. That means that they'll have to wear clothes I pick out for a day at school.

Man I feel like Cypher in the Matrix, except this New York Strip is real.

These are all variations on the theme of food, clothing, shelter and privileges, pointing them towards the understanding that if they can't hold up their end of the deal as children, that I could very well be doing something else myself. I think it will help them to see how much above the minimum they are - I just have to stop trying for them to feel the pain. So far, it's working.

Posted by mbowen at October 17, 2004 04:31 PM

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It's never to early to learn the importance of responding to incentives, I always say.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at October 17, 2004 06:15 PM

I used to make mine do write-offs.

"Daddy told me to get my things off the table." copied 50 times. This after he had told her several times to get her things off the table and she had feigned deafness.

Sometimes I made her write a paragraph about exactly why her behavior was wrong. You can justify that one by explaining that it's your duty as the parent to make sure the kid learns from her experiences.

Posted by: Laura at October 17, 2004 08:23 PM

Cobb, you crack me up. Consistently.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at October 19, 2004 02:15 PM

Oh, those kiddettes. I acquired two at ages 4 and 6, and man o man were they angry little men. I treated them like puppies (which worked some) but also found Love & Logic and determined I could be the kind of parent I wanted to be.

1. http://www.loveandlogic.com/Pages/0401rules.html
2. http://www.loveandlogic.com/Pages/0401playbook.html

Posted by: Elizabeth Ditz at October 21, 2004 10:46 PM