January 11, 2018
Recently I was looking through an old spiral notebook, and found pages and pages of sentences. It made me laugh, since that’s a consequence I haven’t used in a while. “The rules apply to me…I will control my temper…I speak kindly to my sisters…Mom was right.” (I must have been feeling kind of vindicated on that last one.)
One quick note: the whole purpose of the sentences is to make my son or daughter think. There’s two details that are really important here: keep it in the present tense, and word things in a positive way. Instead of saying, “I won’t burp at the dinner table,” change it to something like, “I have good manners at dinner.” Instead of saying, “I won’t lie to my mom,” (s)he would write, “I am honest with my parents.” Assigning 50-100 sentences for an infraction is usually about right.
Another consequence we like is running laps around the block. The other day the boys were throwing markers at each other across the room. One boy accidentally beaned his baby sister in the forehead (and it's not the boy you would think), even when she was clearly not in the line of fire. For having poor aim, for not stopping when we said stop, and for general unruliness, both boys were sent out the door in opposite directions to run laps. One boy was given a lighter punishment since he hadn't beaned his sister, but he was still protesting any laps at all. To remind him of the great mercy he was being shown by virtue of the lighter sentence, Norm told him, “since you got wise and shut your mouth, you only have to run two laps.” Said son immediately opened his mouth like a guppy, as wide as he could, without making a sound. Silent smartmouth. Norm immediately tacked another lap onto his sentence to discourage further smarthmouth guppiness. It was cold and dark outside, but Norm and I went out to the front porch to watch, just for the sheer entertainment.
The point of consequences and discipline in our home isn't to punish or to bring restitution. It's to help our children identify when they've done something they shouldn't, and to give them time to think. Running laps or writing gives them time to think about what they did, and hopefully to think about what they would do differently next time.