On Sunday, a 13-year-old stood up at our Unitarian Church [a modern church community with no religious dogma except our seven principles] during candles of caring and announced that he had been kicked out of a summer camp and had decided to attend church more often.
His honesty, courage and willingness to handle his shame impressed me. As with most teenagers and children who make a bad decision, he felt bad for what he did, which is worse punishment than any parent can inflict.
The youngster really suffered for his bad decision, and we have ALL made them! Afterward, I shared with him that one of my teens was arrested for shoplifting. “Dana” felt remorseful and self-critical for what happened. Dana really learned from getting arrested for shoplifting and never got into trouble with the law again.
We never grounded Dana, however we did shorten Dana’s leash and starting doing more family activities. The incident was a wake-up call to me, the parenting expert. I had to ask, “What did I do to contribute to this situation?” The answer was hard to swallow — I had become a slacker parent. Parenting can be grueling! After 25 years, we had gotten tired.
Dana felt so bad that we didn’t inflict a “punishment.” The trouble with punishment is that it leads rebellion, revenge and resentment. It erodes the parent-child/teen relationship.
There are so many other ways to discipline/teach children how to make better decisions. Most of them start with mom and dad showing mutual respect for children and taking time to listen, share meals and do things together.