Creative punishment pays off

It’s 1am on a Friday night, well, a Saturday morning….. I’ve been organizing my filing cabinet for hours. Throwing away what feels like parts of my life, and reminiscing on years past….

I forgot how wonderfully creative I used to get with punishment. I have essays, written by the older kids as punishment for a particular insult. I’ve really been enjoying these, as well as numerous notes and letters the kids have written me, sometimes in love, sometimes not. I will never throw these away. In fact, I’m going to share one of my favorites.

Apparently, an essay on the importance of listening to your parents, written with all the awesome passive-aggressive sarcasm a preteen can muster. A work of art, really.

“I think it is important to listen to your parents because you and your parents would get along better. Also, because you would not get in trouble often. Also because the parents are the adults and they can treat kids any way they want, which gives kids the impression that, that is why people abuse their kids. It is good to listen to your parents because they might actually give an effort to listen to you when you try to say something because you have their attention when you do something good. Also when you listen to your parents you get rewarded like a dog that did a good trick. It is also good to listen to your parents because you don’t get in trouble and you always want to keep your parents happy. It is bad not to listen to your parents because you have to write an “I’m sorry report” (like me). You will get yelled at uncontrollably (like me). and occasionally or all the time you feel like you hate your parents and you want to run away, and that your friends are better with helping you with your problems because they don’t take anything you say the wrong way and they feel sorry for you and they don’t mock you by saying “Oh, poor Rachel!” And that is why it is important to listen to your parents, all the good parts about listening, and all the bad parts about not listening.”

At the time, she was kind enough to leave room for me to write a letter grade as well as a percentage grade at the top…. I never did it, and the space has remained blank all these years later.

A+++ Rachel, it’s perfect.

I can’t wait to share your essay about the downfall of spitting in the kitchen sink…..

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learning how to take soap in the mouth

Me and the two little ones were reading a book upstairs.

We love the “David” series. “David gets in trouble”,  “No! David!”,  “David goes to school”. They are written by a former child delinquent turned successful author….named David…..

This kid David is a horror, eating the dog biscuits, leaving home with no pants on, messing up and breaking things all over the house. At the end of each book he finds his conscience or just starts to realize what a little jerk he is….and apologizes.  the adult he’s been terrorizing, usually mom or his teacher, then affirms their affection for him, lots of hugs going on, and we close the book with a happy little sigh.

Some of the things David does in these books are the SAME THINGS my kids do at times. Crazy, I know.

So today, it was “David get’s in trouble”. We get to the page where he is sitting with a bar of soap in his mouth….saying “But Dad says it!”

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Sammy is fascinated. Remembering his own single experience with soap in the mouth.

“Momma, how did his mom get him to sit still? Because when you tried to put soap in MY mouth I moved all around!”

“Well, because David is still good enough to know that when his mommy needs to put soap in his mouth, he should sit still”

He looked thoughtful.

The event leading up to getting soap in his mouth was pretty traumatic for both of us. He had just turned 4. We were at the drug store, he wanted me to buy him another gun. I said no. First, those cheap pieces of plastic don’t even last 2 days and they are ridiculously expensive at that. And second, I had recently decided that he was too obsessed with guns, shooting all of us and the babysitter at every chance. I was trying to be a decent mom and so put my foot down and said no more guns.

He didn’t just have a tantrum. He may have been possessed, yelling, crying, gnashing his teeth. I was beyond humiliated, but tried to act unaffected, wishing I knew for sure if there were security cameras in the parking lot or not. I actually had to drag him out of the store, as he tried to lie down on the floor to spite me. On the way home he was still screaming, adding a few “I hate you’s” to spice it up. KICKING the back of my seat the whole time. I recorded it with my phone for my husband who blindly believes this kid is the most innocent and gentle angel ever to exist.

We get home. At that point I am dangerously calm. I drag him into the house, still screaming, and tell my husband not to interfere as I take him upstairs to dole out THE PUNISHMENT. For this temper tantrum, for telling me he hates me, he is going to taste soap for the first time. I tell him this, and bring him to the sink. I grab a bar of Dove, extra sensitive, and tell him to open his mouth.

Are you crazy!???!! His eyes spoke to me as he clamped his hands over his mouth. No threatening would work. I tried to pry his hands away, tried to hold him in my lap, it was like wrestling with an octopus. I could not restrain him enough and finally called it after I got the soap to scrape against a single tooth by pure luck. He choked, gagged, drooled huge amounts of spit as he refused to close his mouth. I let him brush his teeth, then sat on the floor in a sweaty heap of failed motherhood.

He did not have a tantrum again. We both still remember that very vividly. He asks me sometimes if I remember it, and definitely seems to have learned something from it, as there is no more asking for guns at the drug stores. He is learning to be a lot sneakier and working on the guilt factor to persuade me to buy him other things that he wants. Now, when I say no, he gets tearful and says in a lost voice ….”so, I guess you just don’t love me anymore…” I can tolerate this much better, I can deal with the guilt and ever present need to over compensate all the time, lest any child feel they are not loved as much as the others.

But I thought David taught us a valuable lesson today. And maybe the more we read that book, it will reinforce it.

See?… David lets HIS mom put soap in his mouth. Good boy, David. Good boy.

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