Cause and effect in punishments

Yep, inspired by the hair shaving thread

There seems a sort of consensus that punishments which are clear results of the infraction are best as teaching tools. That is, not doing your homework means no time spent watching TV, but instead doing your homework. Or breaking a window means working to earn money to replace the window.

I think that punishments that naturally arise out of the infraction are best, because they teach cause and effect and help the kid to become a little more far-seeing (always a challenge!). But there are some “crimes” which don’t seem to lend themselves to perfect causal relationships. Examples? Take two from WhyKid (and if you have suggestions for how to stop these behaviors, please share!)

  1. Leaving apple cores, yogurt containers, cheese wrappers, etc. in the bedroom. He sneaks food in, but doesn’t dispose of the “evidence”. My main problem here is it attracts flies. I’d rather he didn’t eat in there at all, but if he’s going to, he’s got to learn to get rid of the things flies like.

  2. Forgetting his personal items at friends’ houses. This happens every single time. We’ve tried checklists and packing idential things every time, but he still manages to come back missing things. (He usually gets dropped off back home by friend’s mom, so I’m not there to check when he’s leaving.) Last weekend, he managed to leave his toothbrush at one house, his face wash at a second, and his jacket at a third. It was his hat trick of asshatery. None of these friends live within walking distance, so I had to spend a day (two of them live an hour away - and an hour away from each other!) driving to each place and gathering his stuff.

So do you have a “default” punishment for cases like this? For my mom, it was grounding. Every damn thing I did ended up with me being grounded.

Or do you manage to find a logical punishment for everything?

Or do you just say “hang it all” and assign something arbitrary?

We try to impose logical consequences in an attempt to mimic the real-world consequences of the behavior. Improper disposal of food = infestation, but obviously you aren’t going to allow a full-scale vermin invasion of your kid’s room just to teach him a lesson, instead you impose a simulation consequence, like free time spent cleaning. Your time wasted to treasure hunt lost items around the neighborhood should be repaid in kind by child doing things for you instead of watching the tube or playing. On the surface it’s a grounding, but once you set the foundation of the grounding in a principle it gains meaning and becomes more effective IMO.

I tend to think that any infraction can invite a logical consequence if the parent is willing to think through the guiding principle behind the expectation and then explain the real world effects of the undesired behavior.

Sometimes there is no punishment that exactly fits the crime.

We"ve stuggled with the food in the room thing. The only thing I’ve come up with is the child has to entirely clean the room every day when usually he would only have to vacuum and dust once a week. The other option is let his room get really disgusting and full of flies and then he has to clean it. Of course keep his door shut so the flies stay in his room.

Forgetting personal items: If you have to drive to retrieve the items charge 2:50 per trip. If the child has no money make him do one hour extra chores for you, to make up for the time you had to spend chasing down the stuff. If the item must be purchased because it’s totally lost make him pay or do without or work an appropriate amount of time. Also making him walk to the house where the item is even if it’s so far you have to walk with him (or hire a least favorite babysitter to walk with him). If it’s something he can just get the next day from his friend make him call on the phone and explain the situation to a parent at the other end and ask if the item can be brought the next day. Kids usually hate doing that kind of thing. “Hi, Mrs. Jones, I left my toothbrush at your house. I’m very sorry to be such a bother but could you have Jimmy bring it to school with him tomorrow? Thank you so much.”

Other than that, I have no suggestions.

While this may sound manky, I believe a teenagers hovel is his/her own. Close the door and don’t look. Behaviour outside the hovel should be as the parent expects. The hovel is a teenage rite of passage. Don’t let the hovelly habits intrude into the rest of the house, demand the hovel owner collects all rubbish once a week. Other then then that pretend the hovel is not part of the house and the door is ALWAYS closed.

You drove half the day after a tootbrush and a flannel? Pick your battles! My house? Guess who just had to buy their own new toothbrush and flannel! So he had to go to school with funky teeth? Well guess who won’t forget a toothbrush again!

The jacket is a money item…your money probably. You pay for the postage, he waits till it arrives.

This may sound like a whiney “But! But!” response…but his doors don’t close tightly enough to prevent to passage of flies. We’re in an old, old building and literally none of the doors fit their frames anymore. And that is so far down on the landlord’s list of things to fix that I doubt it will ever be addressed! So I do allow slovenliness in dirty clothes, papers, books, gameboy games (that’s teaching him! Those little games get lost quickly!), but I have to draw the line at food items. I think SP2263’s idea of a cleaning every day is in order for a while until he’s so sick of it he’ll not leave food again. Then he can have his (food-free) hovel back.

Well, the face wash is a medicated (prescription) wash, so it was pretty important to get back quickly. The others? You’re right! No more Mrs. Martyr Mom! Thanks for the ideas!

So, in general, it sounds like you guys believe there is a logical punishment for any infraction, and I just need to ask your advice when I can’t see it!

(In other news, I just looked up the definition of “manky”, and I believe it may be my favorite word for a while!) :smiley:

Oh no, I don’t think there’s a logical punishment for every infraction. I’ve been stumped before but a sadly spoken “just go somewhere else, I don’t want to think about this right now” can really get some child remorse going and get them thinking about what they did.

No, there’s not always a perfect fit, but if you have the patience, there can be an explanation.

I was a far from perfect parent (aren’t we all?) but here’s a couple of examples of times I think I made the punishment fit the crime.

  1. Child too young to have her own money left library books outside overnight; they got damaged and we had to pay for them. Result: She had to do without dessert one day for each book. She really LIKED dessert, but didn’t need it, and we associated each deprivation with a ruined book.

  2. Child neglected expected household chores. Later asked to have something done for her, or to be driven somewhere. Result: No, Mom doesn’t have time to do that, too much work to do here. Maybe next week, if you help with <household chore> I will have time then.

  3. Similar to #2. Child gets mouthy, talks back. Gets scolded. Later asks for something. Result: Nope. You don’t need that, and don’t feel like doing nice things for somebody who was rude and hurt my feelings. Sorry.

We had a situation at my house last week when I found out the boy-child hadn’t been doing any math homework for a long long time, and hiding the notes sent home by the teacher. So the boy-child spent the weekend doing nothing but pages and pages of makeup work and being drilled on his multiplication tables. That took care of punishment for not doing the work when it was assigned; for hiding the notes from his teacher, he loses a week of GameBoy, video games, movies, TV, and computer. Pretty lame, really, but I couldn’t seem to come up with anything more fitting.

On the same day, last Thursday, my girl-child came home and told me she had a whole project to do which was due…all together now, parents…THE NEXT DAY. On top of that, it was to have been a group project, but the girl-child had had a falling-out with her group members and she didn’t have any way of getting in touch with them anyway. I lectured her and hollered at her until she cried, then I kept her home Friday and made her begin the project. Before you freak out, let me make it clear that I kept her home primarily because she had a doctor’s appointment, otherwise I’d have sent her to school to receive her well-deserved zero. As it was, she spent the entire weekend working her little tail off doing her project alone and she’s turning it in today (though whether the teacher will accept it remains to be seen).

Furthermore, I discovered a two-week old progress report with an F on it crumpled up in the girl’s belongings. The new rule is that the little beetles must dump out their backpacks for inspection as soon as they get home, which is a big pain in the butt and a mess besides. Better ideas, anyone?