27/07/2016 13:17 BST | Updated 28/07/2017 06:12 BST

Time-Outs and Punishment - The Writing Is on the Wall

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I mean. It's literally all over the walls.

My partner was brought up with some rules. The usual ones people have. I don't think he was allowed to take felt tip pens around the house. Memories of his Mother not letting him outside until he had finished his homework still haunt him.

He can't believe our kids write on the walls. One of them even did it as he was reading the bedtime story. Unbeknown to him, someone who'd just learned how to draw people was drawing loads of them in green pen on the wall right behind him as he read.

We have treasure map directions on the wall outside our toilet. It says '3 steps up' and an arrow pointing right, and then '9 steps left', and an arrow pointing to the left. So at least you will never get lost upstairs.

When my twins were toddlers, they spent weeks creating a beautiful rainbow swirl on the wall in chalk. Then my Mum came to stay, and I found her with soapy water and a sponge wiping it all away. It was soon reinstated.

The other day as I was sitting on my bed, I glanced behind me to find a new Biro portrait. 'When did they do that?', I thought. These rogue drawings appear suddenly and randomly in unexpected places.

I don't remember the rules in our house when I was young. I don't think there were any. My Scottish, psychotherapist Mother would always state 'I don't believe in punishment''. I remember thinking that was quite cool, although at the time I didn't really understand her reasons for not believing.

My partner doesn't like the way our kids eat at the dinner table, and spends endless meals telling them so. The problem that I've found is that whilst people might listen to you at work, your children may not respond the same way, if at all. You can't swap them for somebody else. 'Look, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to let you go, you just don't listen and the way you eat spaghetti is inappropriate.'

Some days I think that I should be more consistent with consequences. The problem is I can't think of any good ones. If I send my four year old upstairs, there will be a rain storm of toy dinosaurs, toilet rolls and the odd shoe dropped from above in protest. I don't have a naughty step either. Demanding your child should sit on a 'naughty' step and think about just how naughty they are, and just how naughty they could be if they really tried, is really just a good opportunity for them to think up newer and better ways to be naughty. Try it. Sit on your own naughty step and see if you feel like a nice person when you get up? Now, a Mindfulness step might give you a bit more peace and quiet, and a very Zen child, as opposed to a guilty one.

I don't like rules as such. I find them suffocating. I want my children to feel safe, but I don't want to control them. I certainly don't want to 'punish' them, or chip away at their little souls by making them feel small or ashamed. Good communication with children would be my chosen tool in giving them the boundaries that they need. The things you say and do every day, the way you answer the many, many questions, that will instil their moral compass. A wise Aunt of mine said that she would just ignore behaviour that she didn't like, choosing to focus on positive behaviours instead. That works, if you can refrain from reacting they soon get bored. Personally, I would worry more about a four year old who always did as he was told, than one who occasionally didn't.

Would I sometimes like to have a well groomed row of polite little children, like a scene from the Sound of Music? Of course, especially in restaurants. I do have one rule though: We don't hurt each other. But the writing on the walls. Well I love it actually.


Anne is a Mother of 4 who writes about more 'Turbulent Tales of Motherhood' at http://mumming-up/

You can visit her on Facebook too

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