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Is this a punishment??

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  • Is this a punishment??

    I am greatly inspired by Alfie Kohn's unconditional parenting and why punishment and consequences are detrimental. In this example, does anyone think this is a punishment/consequence and if so any alternatives. I have a 2 and a half y/o son and say he is doing something that isn't harming me or an object, but he is doing something I have asked him not to do or have even tried to redirect him but to no avail.

    FOr example,say he repeatedly throws his toy car on the ground at the grocery store because he thinks it is great fun, not because he is upset and there are emotions I need to address. SO I tell him that if he continues to throw it, I will have to take it away because I need to grocery shop. Of course he throws it again and when I take the car away, isn't that a consequence?

    Sometimes it is not an issue of danger (like breaking something or hurting you), but you just want them to stop doing something. as moms there are times when you are not patient and you just don't want to creaet a yes environment in the moment and you need to regroup and can't let them do whatever they want in that rough moment. Does that make sense?

  • #2
    In that example, by holding onto the car, you were creating a yes environment while you shopped! That is the best thing you could have done at that time to help your son succeed in not throwing his car. Punitive would be if you continued to withhold the car even after you got home because he "wasn't listening" or "couldn't follow directions" in the store. See the difference?

    When my son has done stuff like that, sometimes I would explain to him what would happen if he continued to throw it, like a "warning", but that only made the consequence seem punitive (like I think you're worried about). So, many times I would not inform him of the consequences, but just do what I needed to do to let everyone be successful. If he was throwing a car on the floor while we shopped and I was annoyed with constantly having to stop to get it (which is very valid!), I would simply pick it up and put it in my bag. If he noticed that I didn't give it back to him and asked about it, I would tell him, "The car keeps falling down, so I'm going to hold it for now." Not blaming or shaming him by telling him it's his own fault he doesn't have the car, or that "this is what happens when you act this way." Just solving a temporary problem to get the shopping done smoothly.

    I think the key to parenting non-punitively is mindset...it's how we parents look at a problem, and therefore how we decide to solve it. It's a "working with" approach to helping children with their behavior, rather than a "doing to".
    Last edited by Kelly; 07-16-2010, 07:44 AM. Reason: grammatical error

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    • #3
      I'm a fan of removing objects or toys that are causing problems. I don't think it needs to be punitive, like Kelly said. If my kids are fighting over something, or won't share, or keep throwing things that should not be thrown inside, I'll remove the object. But sometimes I give it back almost immediately, if the situation has resolved and it's no longer being abused. So it's not withheld longer than necessary in punishment.

      And I blame it on the toy (if anything) instead of the child. So something like "the bat could hurt your sister when it's swinging around like that inside, so it needs to go in the closet." It's kind of like temporary baby-proofing. It just sets them up for more success. And it doesn't have to be life threatening to be something worth stopping

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      • #4
        Thank you Kelly! I like your response and I will use that in the future and the thing is as I read your response it all rang bells but I guess it is so easy to slip into a more mainstream or harsh response when aggravated. What did you mean by thinking Io was creating a yes environment by taking the car away? I totally have said something like, "I have to take the car away because you keep throwing it" something along the lines of letting him know this action has happened because it is his fault (blaming/shaming) UGH!

        Here is another example if you don't mind helping me brainstorm-Today we were in a doctors office and it is usually quick but of course he was stuck in his stroller for an hour- I couldn't let him run around (it was my eye doctor with eyeglasses on their stands everywhere). I validated how hard it must be to have to sit for so long. I read a book, played, etc. but later on in the actual exam room he kept screaming in delight-( again not upset but thinking it was cute) I kept reminding him that" In a doctors office we speak quietly" but the screaming continued. I snapped and then said that we weren't going to the train store after wards as I have previously informed him. AS the words came out of my mouth I knew it sounded punitive and it was. Then he says, "I be quiet now" I knew I wasn't going to enforce that it just seemed in that moment better to be inconsistent than enforce something I knew was against my values. So before we went in the train store I just went over the expectations, like when I say we need to leave ( I give him a countdown for a transition time) for him not to runaway as he usually does.

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        • #5
          I like what you said Jennifer about something doesn't have to be life threatening to be worth stopping- I guess so many times I keep hearing about creating a yes environment that I feel compelled to allow things to continue unless there is a risk of someone getting hurt- so thanks for the reminder!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Kelly View Post
            When my son has done stuff like that, sometimes I would explain to him what would happen if he continued to throw it, like a "warning", but that only made the consequence seem punitive (like I think you're worried about). So, many times I would not inform him of the consequences, but just do what I needed to do to let everyone be successful. If he was throwing a car on the floor while we shopped and I was annoyed with constantly having to stop to get it (which is very valid!), I would simply pick it up and put it in my bag. If he noticed that I didn't give it back to him and asked about it, I would tell him, "The car keeps falling down, so I'm going to hold it for now." Not blaming or shaming him by telling him it's his own fault he doesn't have the car, or that "this is what happens when you act this way." Just solving a temporary problem to get the shopping done smoothly.
            That is such an amazing way of explaining it and GREAT advice!!! I am so totally going to do that!!!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by attached4life View Post
              What did you mean by thinking Io was creating a yes environment by taking the car away?
              Just that creating a yes-environment is about setting a child up for success; about removing obstacles to success. We do this easily at home easily by baby-proofing thoroughly and eliminating the need for us to correct, redirect, say "no", admonish, etc. When we're out, this is much harder, but we still can do everything we can to set our children up for success. In accompanying you through the grocery store, the obstacle to his success was the whole combination of: the toy, his age, the setting, his need to experience things (here, the emotional & physical experience of repeatedly throwing the car down), and his complete lack of impulse control. By removing the car from that combination of factors, it's not that you were "taking the car away", so much as "eliminating the obstacle." You were creating the opportunity for him to be successful, which is what a yes-environment is!

              Originally posted by attached4life View Post
              I totally have said something like, "I have to take the car away because you keep throwing it" something along the lines of letting him know this action has happened because it is his fault (blaming/shaming) UGH!
              Well, don't beat yourself up about that...we've all been there, said things we wish we hadn't, etc. We just keep moving forward, right? Plus, it takes lots of practice to reframe how we approach parenting, and to rephrase "standard" responses; things we heard when we were raised!

              Originally posted by attached4life View Post
              Here is another example if you don't mind helping me brainstorm-Today we were in a doctors office and it is usually quick but of course he was stuck in his stroller for an hour- I couldn't let him run around (it was my eye doctor with eyeglasses on their stands everywhere). I validated how hard it must be to have to sit for so long. I read a book, played, etc. but later on in the actual exam room he kept screaming in delight-( again not upset but thinking it was cute).
              Again, the challenge is to figure out what he needs to be successful...

              --a worthy distraction from screaming?
              (one time at my eye doctor appt., I pulled a chair up to the little sink in the exam room, and let my son stand & play in a trickle of water with those little disposable cups and a contacts case. It worked just long enough!)

              --a walk outside the office while you're waiting to help stave off restlessness?

              --extra snacks?

              --an activity to keep him busy?
              (when I have to bring my kids with me to a doctor appointment, I always bring a DVD player and a movie they like, just in case it goes longer than I thought. It's my fail-safe)

              --a friend or Grandma to come with you & help entertain him?

              --a babysitter to stay with him at home?

              --a willingness for you to "call it", and reschedule your appointment?

              Some of those ideas obviously require planning ahead, and some just might not be possible, but it gives you an idea of some alternatives to punishments. The other thing I used to do when my kids were your son's age, was to never inform them if we were doing something fun until we actually got there. It avoids a tantrum if the "fun" thing didn't work out. It also helped me avoid using a fun activity to get through any less-fun activities. If my kids never knew the fun thing was coming, I couldn't hold it over their heads to invoke pleasant behavior. And if I decided, for whatever reason, not to do it, it wouldn't be a punishment, just a change in plans of which they would be unaware. Of course, only by withholding, "Well, we were going to go to the train store, but now we're not!"

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              • #8
                Thanks so much for the feedback- I am now much more aware of reframing blaming comments. Thanks for the new perspective

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                • #9
                  Really helpful post... thank you very much. Love brain storming.

                  I would like to have some advice about the occassional hitting my daughter does when stressed out/distress crying/tantrum.... it isn't hard or that often, but more often recently... although, the distress tantrums are less frequent since we got sleep sorted out... but it kid of bothers me. She is two in 6 weeks. THANKS

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                  • #10
                    Hitting is VERY normal for that age. While that doesn't make it any more pleasant for you to deal with, it helps to know that hitting is something she'll outgrow. Tantrums are the only way toddlers can express their BIG emotions, and until they can grow into some self control and a bigger vocabulary, many children lash out physically as well as verbally. The important thing during a tantrum is that everyone is safe. When she is having a tantrum, let her know that it is OK to be mad, "but I won't let you hurt me." You may try to redirect her hands or give yourself some physical distance. She may just need some space until she's gotten out most of her big feelings and is ready for hugs.

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                    • #11
                      in response to reggie22 and kelly, i get that hitting is normal for 2yo's, but what about age 4? my dd has just started hitting me out of frustration if she doesn't get her way, and so we talk about what's frustrating her and point out after we talk that verbally communicating her frustration is more effective in getting results than hitting, and she can hit pillows not people, etc. but she still hits. how can i get that to stop? 4yo hands hurt!

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                      • #12
                        Even at 4 years old, it's still the same thing going on...the hitting as you've described is a reflexive reaction caused by her age & development: four-year-olds definitely have more language skills and capabilities for understanding, but NO impulse control. And yes, it's both physically and emotionally hurtful to be hit!

                        To understand what to do about unwanted behavior, we first need to address how we feel. I know you said hitting hurts you...I think you meant physically, but in the situation you described do you also find it emotionally hurtful? I do. When my son hits me out of anger, I feel very hurt, like, "How could you do this to me?" In this kind of situation, a child's mistaken goal of behavior is: Revenge. When they are feeling hurt or angry or unloved, their instinctual lashing out is a way to retaliate or get even. "I'll hurt others as I feel hurt."

                        It's great that you recognized that she was hitting out of frustration and were able to talk to her about it! It's always helpful when parents realize that children's behavior isn't purposefully spiteful; that there's a genuine need accompanied by developmental limitations behind it. In addition to pinpointing the frustration and talking about alternatives, you could also talk about her feelings...probably do this first, actually. Acknowledge her feelings (even if they seem silly to you), and validate them (over and over again, if it helps). Some other things to try could be:

                        use reflective listening
                        share your feelings
                        make amends
                        show you care
                        act, don't talk
                        encourage strengths
                        start family meetings

                        I don't know the specifics of your situation, so I can't really give examples of what specifically to say for each of these types of responses. If you want me to expound on anything, just let me know! It's easier to explain when we're talking about a specific incident and I can give some practical examples of things to say. I'm happy to get into more specifics...just didn't want to ramble too long here!

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