Making the punishment fit
Category : Family
Four kids in a house designed really for two, means that we are often in each others way and space. There simply is not not enough room for all of us especially when we are all confined to the house for extended periods. I mean, everyone sitting around watching a movie is fine, but when everyone wants to do different activities, well, that’s when the wheels sort of come off things.
Today was a good example. We were sort of forced inside because of the heat and the flies (flies will be the subject of another post later on…they are unbelievable), and after a morning spent at the movies, the itchiness to do something was just proving too strong. Especially for a certain 4yo.
Tom had found some amusement in some nano blocks he had purchased with a Christmas voucher, the girls were content with trying out Biddy’s new water speakers (they spurt water up and down with lights in time to music). The problem was, they needed my computer to hook up to power. So we all sat around on the living room floor listening and watching the water speakers (which really are pretty cool).
Henry, on the other hand, was not so content. He was hell bent on cracking open a packet of “Bunch of Balloons” that the kids had been given for Xmas and getting out in the heat and flies to throw some around. I told him that he could, but just needed to wait until the searingness of the heat had gone out of the day. Every minute, he came and asked me about doing it, and every time my answer was the same; “Yes, but not right now. It is too hot outside”
Clearly, this wasn’t good enough for him and while my back was turned to help one of the girls do yet another craft project that they pulled out, he helped himself to my computer.
Now this is a known NO NO. Our computers – mine, Mark’s and the farm one – are out of bounds for the kids unless we are directly sitting next to them watching. Even at 4yo, H knows that from previous experience and punishment, that he is not allowed to play around with my computer. So when the music suddenly stopped, I knew he was doing something he shouldn’t be. And as such, he got a smack on the bum.
Now before I get any bleeding hearts or visits from the authorities about child abuse, let me say, it was not hard and did not even leave a mark. It was his pride that was affected more than anything, but a stern and solid reminder that he must not touch the computer. EVER.
Less than 15 minutes later, I go into the lounge to pack up all the stuff (because let’s face it, that’s what mums are for right?) and flick open my computer only to discover that there is a dirty big crack running from top left to bottom right of screen. Right away I knew who had done this, but I gave them all the benefit of the doubt and screamed at all of them accordingly. At this point, they were all guilty until proven innocent. It really came down to between Bella (aka clumsyclots) and Henry (aka the devil). Both were adamant and full of tears and wringing of hands that they were not to blame and it was not either of them.
I knew it really had to be H, so like the great mother I am, I played them off against one another. I told Bella that there would be no water balloons until the person that did the breakage came forward. All would suffer for the actions of one. It wasn’t very long until H came out and owned up. He had stood on the computer. Although it is unclear if it was from spite at being punished, or just a thing that kids do when they are walking around and fail to notice things under their feet.
Now, my inner turmoil begins. H is 4yo. He knows basic right from wrong. He knows that it is bad to lie. He knows about the computer ban. He knows that actions have some consequences. But at the end of the day he is 4yo. And this time, he owned up to the crime (alright….after some prodding by the others…..but he owned up). So given that he has no money of his own, has no capacity of working it off, will have forgotten about this whole episode most likely before the day has ended, what is the most appropriate punishment?
A quick call to the computer shop eased my heart (and bank balance) somewhat as there is a single crack not a smash, and this is covered potentially under warranty. Otherwise, it was a $1000 repair.
So returning to the punishment…..what should I do? Well, I can tell you, that after 11+ years of being a mum, one thing I have learnt is that whenever something like this occurs, it is always a smart move to either remove them from your line of sight, or you from theirs. Give yourself a minute to regroup and truly assess how bad it all is.
When I was a younger mum, Tom bore the brunt of my very explosive anger. Now, really only Mark cops it. But he’s big and ugly enough to take it on the chin. I have learnt since that my kids don’t respond to that kind of anger. In fact, the opposite is probably more effective. We are a loud family. We yell, shout, make lots of noise. I’m grateful that we don’t live in the suburbs. So when I go quiet….really quiet, that’s when the kids freak out. So that is what I did. I just told H to get away from me, that I was angry that he broke something of mine that I was sad and that it was going to cost a lot of money to fix. And he also got another smack.
But the biggest punishment of all……..I let the other 3 kids go outside and play with those bloody water balloons, and yell and scream and laugh and run about in their togs. And I made H sit inside and watch. And it KILLED HIM. The screen can be replaced with little effort. But H learnt a valuable lesson today, and inside I knew that I wouldn’t have to deal with this particular issue ever again, all because of missing out on playing with some latex and water.
Because after all, what more does a 4yo want to do on a hot day?