Cruel and Unusual Punishment in Parenting

Hannah has pretty much always been a healthy eater. She does love fast food, but also craves a salad, and most fruits and vegetables. Broccoli has always been a favorite.

When she was much younger, we were at a restaurant and I found myself giving her these instructions: "Hannah, no more eating your broccoli until you eat some of your chicken nuggets."

Really? Did I just tell her to choose processed chicken over a healthy veggie? Yep, I sure did. And I immediately knew that something was wrong with my parenting skills.

Earlier this month, I gave Hannah another unusual punishment -- she was not allowed to read books for a few days (she was only allowed to read her Bible, write in her journal, or draw pictures). A little odd that I would punish a child by not letting her read, right?

The day before I had given her specific instructions about needing to be done reading. And minutes later, she "figured" that I would say it was OK. Wrong.

As much as possible, we want the consequence to fit the crime. And she does love reading, especially in the mornings and during relaxing afternoons. So, I took away her privilege to read her own books, after having (yet another) conversation about trusting in our authority instead of being autonomous in her decision-making.

So for a couple of days, she read the Bible more, and did a lot of drawing and creating. And she was happy to get back her privilege to read.

Punishing a child by not letting her read -- yet another way that our parenting skills seem a bit "off."

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  1. Hi Joey,

    We have had to do the same thing with Rachel. I never thought I would hear myself telling one of my children "you're not allowed to read for two days (or any period of time)." That got to her heart, though, and was effective. It is difficult in the moment to consistently connect the crime and the consequence, but it is critical. Where we have failed to do so, our discipline efforts come up short. Where we have connected it successfully, there are positive results - beyond simple behavior modification.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and sharing of yourself. You guys are an encouragement to us and many others. Take care.

    1. I love how our daughters are so similar in their personalities, and that Rachel is a year older. That way, we can steal plays out of your playbook!

      You are right -- we, too, often struggle to connect the crime & the consequence. That takes time, prayer, and patience -- where I often fall short.