What’s an acceptable punishment?


Do you ever feel like a bad parent?

I did a few weeks ago.

We’re not long returned from a lovely family holiday to Disneyland Paris where our girls were utterly spoilt with the whole experience, but also in the shops there too.

The week after we returned, one of daughters seemed to have developed a new personality where she was demanding, rude and ignored my pleas for her to behaviour better and change her attitude.

Over a number of days, her behaviour increasingly worsened. One day in the park on the way home from school, I advised the girls, as I always do, that they had five more minutes before we had to leave.

At this point one of my daughters turned around and announced that I couldn’t tell her when to leave and she’d leave when she was ready.

I was pretty mortified if I’m honest as this isn’t her usual behavior.

I kept calm, but was stern in telling her that wasn’t the case and that she had five minutes left.

The same day after I’d make the girls their dinner, they were both in the kitchen so I asked them to carry their plates into the living room and set them on the dining table so that I could carry their drinks in. One of our daughters happily obliged, while the other refused. Again, I stayed calm, but was stern and eventually she carried her plate into the room.

However, she then proceeded to deliberately drop her plate on the floor and then refused to pick her food up.

I snapped.

I shouted at her. Told her how naught and ungrateful she was, and I sent her to her bedroom.

I told her to lie in her bed and go to sleep. That she wouldn’t be getting any tea and that I would be binning all of the lovely toys we’d bought her from Disneyland. I then proceeded to collect the toys, left the room, dumped on the kitchen top and slammed the bin shut loud enough for her to hear, giving the impression that I had just binned her toys. I hadn’t, obviously, they cost a lot of money! I simply put them out of sight.

Of course, she cried. She was pretty inconsolable, but I was just fed up her behaviour. I asked her to be quiet, go to sleep and think about her behaviour.

I left her food on the dining room table.

Five minutes passed and I could still hear her crying.

I felt guilty for the way I’d reacted.

Had I over-reacted?

You see, it wasn’t just the one naughty incident, but the number of naughty incidents that had occurred that day, in addition to her bad attitude since returning from Disneyland, that made me react the way I did.

In hindsight, I wish I’d been more patient, but I wonder if her behaviour would have continued if I hadn’t reacted the way I had. That she would think that she could get away with it.

When I’d calmed down, I sat on the bed with her and held her in my arms. I talked calmly to her and asked if she understood why I was upset and why I reacted the way I did. She nodded her head and said because she’d been naughty.

After we’d both calmed down, she ate her dinner and I gave her back her toys.

In some ways, the way I reacted had a positive outcome. I use it as a teaching point now when she behaves the same way, and warn her if she doesn’t want the same thing to happen again, then she needs to change her behaviour.

I still feel guilty though. I think us parents will always feel guilty occasionally about the punishments we dish out. Do you?


26 thoughts on “What’s an acceptable punishment?

  1. I must admit I’ve been like this with my daughter (5).Some days absolutely everything is “no!” And I do try everything to stay patient but sometimes I then shout and she runs off sobbing and I feel awful and do what you did, explain why I had and give her a hug. Where does it end if you don’t react in some way? I’ve even done the pretending to put things in the bin as well! We can only do our best, sometimes we get it wrong but sometimes they do need to be told that they cannot behave like that.

  2. You sound like a brilliant Mum. My experience as a child was not the same, we were told off and there was no chance of reconciliation. Now as a Father, I do find I loose my patience with challenging behaviour but all these instances are simply ways my eldest chooses to test the boundaries. It’s healthy to push back.

  3. It’s a tough job, being a parent. Mine isn’t old enough to do this yet and to be honest, I really don’t know how I’m going to deal with it when it happens. Perhaps I’d better start taking notes now! #ThatFridayLinky

  4. It’s funny how it’s always one, isn’t it?! My older one is usually pretty compliant but the middle one can be an outright terror when he’s in a mood! I’ve had to “clear out” the bedroom and playrooms occasionally and just left books and a few basic toys when their behaviour gets out of hand. I usually just box it up and hide it for a few weeks (or months!) until they are bored and have been better and then I can dig it all out. Suddenly, old toys are new again! I do think they get a bit wired after a holiday and need a chill-out phase.

  5. Do not feel guilty and beat yourself up over this. You are not the first parent and nor will you be the last to lose it a bit and react as you did. We have all done it! Sometimes our little (and not so little) ones push us to the limit. They’re testing the boundaries. It will happen again, but next time you’ll be more prepared. The important thing is to chat to them afterwards, reassure them you love them and make sure they understand why you were so upset and always apologise to one another. You’re doing a fab job #ThatFridayLinky xx

  6. You sound like a great mum! We are all only human, and sometimes we just snap. I always try to stay calm and think about things before reacting, but sometimes its just not possible. Like you say, it was a build up of things that just exploded. Don’t let it worry you, it’s obviously not a regular thing and it’s not a bad thing for your daughter to see how much she was upsetting you. The best thing you did was talk about it with her, that is so important. She was testing the boundaries, my son went through it and it was a pretty short period, he’s back to his normal lovely self now #ThatFridayLinky

  7. I don’t feel this is an over reaction at all. My son is a threenager and his behaviour can be intolerable at times. But he does learn when he is chastised whether it be the naughty corner or no bath for not helping tidy up. Parenting can be difficult! #thatfridaylinky

  8. I always think the mark of a good parent is that you question your actions. Of course you felt guilty, it’s hard to see your child upset even when it is their own behaviour which has lead to that point. I know I really struggle with carrying through punishments (like cancelling a day out), but actually that just makes it harder in the long run. You did something that showed your daughter that her actions have a consequence, and hopefully that message will stick. It’s so tough though, you either end up feeling guilty when you do discipline them or feel guilty if you don’t and their behaviour continues…definitely my least favourite part of parenting!

  9. This was us yesterday! My little boy slapped his karate belt in his sisters face!! it then ended in us both screaming at each other and him telling me he hates me! I cancelled his karate class and he was sent to bed at 5pm. I felt awful and I sat and cried when he had fallen to sleep but I knew I couldn’t give in to him. Its all part and parcel of motherhood I guess.


  10. Ah man, don’t we all question our behaviour from time to time? It’s those mums and dads that don’t question their behaviour that you have to worry about. If it makes you feel any better, we’re having a few trying times in this household. Roll on the summer holidays hey!! Thanks for hosting #thatfridaylinky

  11. I could have written this about Fidget. She has been a problem lately, punctuating everything with “I can do what I like!” She’s five! I’ve used the get to bed and pretend to bin her toys ploy too. I was worried I was being too harsh until I read this. Now I realise I’m not insane just a bog-standard parent doing their best. Great post.

  12. Parenting is so tough! Sounds like you were pushed to your limits that day. I don’t think you should feel guilty and the most important thing is the making up afterwards! I have been reading this book called “No Drama Discipline” by Daniel Siegel, and it’s helped me a bit to understand why kids sometimes act the way they do…which has sort of sometimes helped me to not fly off the handle…though not always! Having said that it’s always easier to analyse these things with hindsight but truth is in the heat of the moment I can get extremely wound up in a millisecond! I’m trying to use the book’s strategies to stay calmer, before all my hair turns grey from the stress #thatfridaylinky

  13. I’ve got something I’m working on about swearing at mine. It seems that sometimes they just keep pushing to see how far they can take it before we snap. Its hard, sometimes harder for us than for them, but punishment is a big part of parenting. Its up to us to shape them and teach acceptable behavior. Great post #thatfridaylinky

  14. You’re right it’s so hard to know because had you not snapped, would she have continued being disrespectful? but then how far is too far? I think you did what was right at the time and it clearly had the desired outcome. It’s a learning experience for you both. If we don’t discipline as well as have fun, we wouldn’t be parenting. #ThatFridayLinky

  15. Oh I hear you! I have way too many days where I snap and lose my patience, I think it’s all part of being human and these little ones of our really do know how to push our buttons! I sent my daughter to bed on Friday due to bad behaviour and she was up there screaming for ages. In the end she fell asleep and woke up very apologetic, as long as you explain why they are being punished I think it’s necessary! #thatfridaylinky

  16. I think we’d be lying if we said we didn’t all snap at some point. Sometimes they need to learn that there behaviour is having such an impact, and as you say, it had a positive outcome, so don’t beat yourself up about it, a learning curve for both of you.

  17. I think you handled things brilliantly. Kids test us to see how far we can snap, and they do it by testing the boundaries with their behaviour. Your daughter started off with back chat, then with resistance and then it culminated in her dropping her food in an act of defiance. She was looking to see how far it would go, upping her anti each time you replied sternly. The fact you showed true anger and made her see and feel a consequence to her actions is what brought on the tears, plus she was realising her guilt because deep down she knew that how she was behaving was wrong. It’s horrible to see them cry. It’s horrible to have to be the ones to make them sad. But, that is the hard side of parenting. We have to teach right from wrong and good from bad. Nothing to feel guilty about, you taught her a valuable lesson and she will grow from it much more than if you hadn’t reacted that way. #thatfridaylinky

  18. We all have moments like these and immediately question our parenting skills! Our 4yr old has become increasingly angry over the last few months and we are currently trying to get to the bottom of it. She is about to start school something she is very aware of and also we are pregnant with her baby brother/sister so its a confusing time for her. She gets very angry and it ends with me shouting at her and her running to her bedroom crying (just like a teenager?!). I now just go in and wait for her to calm down, when she does, she apologises and we all move on. It happens, your not a bad parent for shouting or reacting. Its how you all deal with it afterwards that matters 🙂


  19. I’ve had so many of these moments when I just snap because one of my kids’ behaviour is just so unacceptable and they’ve pushed me and pushed me which sounds like what your little girl was doing to you. And it’s impossible to keep the calm, reasoning, patience so I think sometimes they need to have a bit of old skool temper and sending them to their bedrooms. I usually do this when i just don’t know what else to do and I always feel foul about it afterwards but I do think it’s the only way at times. Parenting is tough and we’re all just trying our best, but I am constantly beating myself up! #ThatFridayLinky

  20. It’s so tough isn’t it- and as a parent you always re-live what you could have done better, calmer or just differently after the event, normally long after the child has forgotten about it.

    I am a great believer in following through with a punishment though and think you did the right thing by not using empty threats.

    Two occasions stand out with my eldest – one was the if you do that again we will leave threat- he did, so we did. The result was 5 crying children and me carrying him out kicking and screaming but he never did it again. The other time was if you don’t stop that you will loose your bedtime story- he lost the story. It has only happened once and I didn’t withhold the cuddle and chat as that is sacred but the story is based on good, sensible behaviour and he realised I meant that.

    I think it’s good for children to realise that behaviour has consequences and as long as they know they are safe, secure and loved it is important for them to know they can’t get away with behaving as they want when it impacts others.

    Sounds to me like you are doing a great job- unfortunately guilt is a fairly major part of the job description! #ThatFridayLinky

  21. This parenting thing is tough and, I suppose, so is ‘childing!’ We too suffer from a consequence that fits the attitude – was that too harsh, too little, did we follow through. I think basically, staying calm (easier typed than reality) and explaining as you did is best. We’ve had shades of that behavior you describe and it is just not okay. Gratitude, empathy and kindness are the big three we come back with. May it only work! #ThatFridayLinky xoxo

  22. We are in the middle of a really testing time with the little man at the moment. I have tried everything from time out to removing toys and you name it, we’ve done it. Nothing seems to work. I just think he is so ready for school now and it’s just a phase we have to ride out. These are all the things they don’t warn you about hey?! #thatfridaylinky

  23. I think you made the right call… you repeatedly remained calm and clear and then after a certain point you ramped it up with threats and followed them through. You told her if she carried on she would go to bed and the toys will be gone. You called her bluff and she learnt the hard way.
    I’d have done the same thing as I think its all about following through with the consequences of their actions.
    Ben has a naughty spot where I sit him when he’s been naughty and Hubby hates it but it works. He now knows when he’s pushing his luck and I don’t want him to think he can be naughty and get away with it! I’ve also put him to bed once as he was a devil, but like you, after about 5-10 minutes of sobbing I had to go in and console him! #thatfridaylinky

  24. All. The. Time.
    Especially if my kids cry! I think its because I can still remember being a kid. If I could forget that I think I’d be tougher…
    Still, I know that I’m not doing them any favors by letting bad behavior slide!


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