The subtle illusion of terrible punishment

The rules around the house are pretty lax. We go with the flow of things and if that means sometimes we eat dinner watching tv as a family, then so be it. I think I ate at the dining room table as a child for at least a few years, but we gradually migrated to the couches, so now eating at the table feels a little odd to me. We try to eat dinner at the dinner table, but we don’t always make it there. Such is life.

There are a core of unbendable rules, rules that I enforce with a stern and unrelenting authority: no hitting, no pinching, no kicking, no hurting of any kind. And of course, the little dude will test the absolute nature of these rules. There are timeouts assigned for these infractions, but I’ve also included a secondary punishment: I throw away a treat.

We have a fairly ample supply of somewhat healthy treats, like gummi bears made out of fruit juice, and there are occasional influxes of junk food that come into the house one way or another and are doled out in meagre portions to the excitable young man. And oh does he love his treats. So, when he chooses to deliberately cause harm to someone, I hit ’em where it hurts, and I throw a treat into the garbage. It’s a third strike punishment, because I always give him a couple of chances to rethink his bad choices, but if he is still choosing to strike someone, then I head towards the treat cupboard. And the wailing that rises from this poor tiny soul!

I decided to start doing this as a lesson about permanent consequences, and hopefully it also sends the message that yummy snacks aren’t automatically supplied for a boy regardless of his behaviour. It’s all about the choices he makes, and what happens when he chooses to be naughty.

Someday, he will realize that I only throw out a small portion of a treat he doesn’t actually like, so the actual loss to him is negligible. I’m not sure what I’ll do that day.

Published by Chris

I'm an author, freelance writer, dad, and civic busybody living in London, Ontario

2 thoughts on “The subtle illusion of terrible punishment

  1. That’s easy Chris. When they get older the things they value make it much easier. Try: “I’m unplugging the router,” “I’m not paying your cell bill,” and “I’m suspending your Mastercard”.

  2. Elizabeth gets two vitamins (multi and D) if she cleans the living room. She does not realize that these are good for her and I’m not sure what I’ll do when she figures that out!

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