We’re hoping to do the exact opposite of what some assume – irreversible psychological damage
Our idea of “jail” as a form of discipline isn’t original. I know I’ve seen a meme about the very thing, and it totally inspired us. I know many have an opinion on the matter, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s great. Disciplining children is basically everything there is to parenting once a child hits age 5. It begins well before then, but parenting becomes revolved around it when your oldest reaches the ripe old age of 5 – at least that’s been our experience. Therefore, just about everyone SHOULD have an opinion on discipline, so to speak.
Let me paint you a quick picture of what we’re dealing with here. My daughter, Chloe (7), is from my previous marriage. This poor child has been through so much, so early in life. Simply put, life back then was super chaotic. I know that when she was with me we weren’t always living in the best of neighborhoods – kids were rough and I taught her that she needed to defend herself. When she wasn’t with me she was with her aunt and uncle who are basically her second set of parents, or she was with her father. Being that communication has always been pretty limited with him, I still have no idea everything that went on while she stayed with him. We definitely made our mistakes and this little lady was in the middle of it all.
It’s pretty apparent that my daughter is angry and has every right to be. Her pediatrician has said that her outbursts are normal, considering. We have tried teaching her that it’s okay to be angry, but there’s appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with and acting out on that anger. When I first started dating my current (and final) husband, Chloe was about 3 or 4 years old. She was at her peak of outrageous tantrums.
I can admit that I did not know how to handle Chloe’s tantrums. I was still figuring out how to handle mine! Thank the heavens Tom had had some “normal” discipline growing up. I realized I had no real basis of measure. Along the way I had learned that I really needed to work on how I talked to Chloe, but that was as far as I had ever gotten. Being a little embarrassed at my behavior and my lack of discipline skills, I started watching “Super Nanny.”
When it came to every day discipline, “Supper Nanny”, Tom, his family as well as another few families who have always been wonderful examples, really helped me and Chloe. There were less tantrums and more communication. She still had a lot of issues with other kids, but she responded well to time outs and her outbursts occurred less frequently. I learned how to talk to her instead of yell at her (you know, simple things). She would still come home in a dramatic flair about some other child mistreating her every now and again (and let’s be honest, she was the instigator in at least half of those instances).
Her kindergarten teacher, during a parent-teacher conference, told us that Chloe was having trouble with social skills. She was very courteous explaining what we already knew about our darling little child – she wasn’t always a darling. She can be bossy, loud, and downright stubborn. At home she could be even worse. Although her tantrums didn’t happen as often, when they would…boy, you better watch out! Her teacher then had suggested joining a group involving teamwork. We were all about that until we realized we didn’t have too many options considering our finances. Then we moved!
Yup, we up and moved in the middle of her kindergarten year, less than a year after her twin brother and sister were born. We’re despicable. Chloe must think we absolutely despise her. I will hand it to her though, she is one tough little cookie. She manages to keep perfect marks in school and her reading level is almost three grades above her own. But the day eventually came when her anger got so explosive that she hit someone.
There have been three incidents that we know of, to date – all on the bus. The first occurred at the end of her kindergarten year and seemed to be in self-defense. We’ll never really know because, let’s face it, children lie. As we learned during the second incident (the beginning of this school year), Chloe had no issues trying to lie about it being in self-defense, when in fact Chloe was the instigator. She had come home with a huge scratch on her face. It turns out she got into it with a boy she scratched, he retaliated and got her good.
At this point, we told her that if she was going to act like a bully people were going to treat her like one. She already knew this, but we reiterated that she needed to keep her hands to herself. We explained the difference between self-defense and being a bully. She was put on restriction for a week and wasn’t allowed to do a whole heck of a lot.
When she’s on restriction, we usually add a few extra chores, but if she’s creative with her play, since she’s not allowed to go out or use electronics, we have allowed her some activities. When she’s grounded she’s a freaking angel. She may have moments where she’s about to throw a tantrum, but for some reason she’s more willing to calm herself down before getting out of hand while grounded, versus when she has her freedom.
So, she’s outgrown time-outs, meaning she’s too big to carry if she decides she’s not going into time-out. She’s also gotten really comfortable with being grounded. Even to me it seems she’s grounded an outlandish amount. And she has now hit her 3rd victim, and I quote, “because he usually laughs when he gets hurt.” Don’t get me wrong – I totally understand her logic here, however, it is my duty as a parent to teach my child what true slap-stick comedy is, and of course, that hitting is bad. If she is neither defending herself nor hitting someone where the slap has been choreographed and rehearsed under the supervision of a director, who has in hand a viable script that actually calls for such – hitting is bad.
This may seem extremely complicated, but to us, under these circumstances, she needs to learn the consequences of harming another, especially considering she’s surrounded by little ones (twin 2 year olds and a 7 month old). She needs to understand that you have to earn trust back; that you have to work your way back to being in someone’s good graces after making a mistake. Also, we didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of money on summer camp for her to hit someone and get kicked out without a refund.
Now, don’t think we’re totally horrible yet. We still haven’t unveiled the entirety of the complexity or depth of this experimental punishment. Nor are we completely positive that we’re even aware of all potential outcomes. We’re hoping to do the exact opposite of what some assume – irreversible psychological damage – and actually view this as more of a learning experience for our family that will strengthen our communication. We believe that Chloe will most certainly experience a lot of emotions this coming week and we will be there for her when she’s letting them out. We’re hoping that by going to extreme measures we get her attention. We also hope that we will get a better understanding of exactly where this anger is coming from by cutting her off from everything else and focusing on what’s going on with her right now.
Stay tuned for the following article which will provide more details on the experimental punishment.