The Blog

The Modern Punishment for the Modern Child

I have an 11-year-old, soon to be 12, who thinks he is 21. I was warned to expect lots of personality changes when senior school started for him this year, just how much would change and how quickly I'm not sure we can ever prepare ourselves for.

Nobody likes to punish their child. Unfortunately it's the 'act of love' which comes hand in hand with becoming a parent; giving our children boundaries, standards to uphold, a sense of what's correct in the world and what is socially unacceptable - all of which it is our responsibility to instil.

I have an 11-year-old, soon to be 12, who thinks he is 21. I was warned to expect lots of personality changes when senior school started for him this year, just how much would change and how quickly I'm not sure we can ever prepare ourselves for. Rudeness bordering on verbal abuse one minute, still my little baby the next, inconsistency leading to unpredictability, I can never tell what version of him I'm going to be met with anymore.

So I've stopped expecting him to be how I want him to be or how he used to be now and I appreciate the importance of living in the moment, not the past. So, just how do I or any parent experiencing a shift of epic teenage proportions, adapt in order to survive this tricky stage?

Whilst this might sound fairly infantile I have reintroduced the points system and only give points for good manners or behaviour, resisting the urge to take them away when I am on the receiving end of something bordering on hatred, because I still believe that punishment should be kept separate from reward.

Children Bobby's age have plenty that they 'want' which is great because that means there is plenty to take away. I can see this causes him a lot of displeasure, especially when it involves his means of communication with all of his friends. While I can warn that he is about to lose something important to him, it won't stop him or calm him down, especially if he has worked up a head of steam and is in mid-flow, so what is this new modern angle to punishment which has cropped up of late you ask?

I will stress here that this is something I've experimented with and to good effect, the reason I write about it is so I can gauge from other parents whether they see it as a good idea or if there are hidden dangers to it that I haven't foreseen?

The act of recording your child while they are going to town on you is something that I have thought about before. When they are younger these moments are cute and something you keep to laugh about as they get older. When they get to Bobby's age the cuteness isn't so apparent so just what is, or might be, the value of capturing your child's fury on your phone?

My instincts told me it was a good idea, to film Bobby saying hurtful things for very little reason felt like it could be constructive, not at the time, I mean he went really mad when he saw I was filming him but then that was the point, not to wind him up further in a tit-for-tat manner but to give him something to think about, a reason to stop, a reason to watch what he says - but why?

Kids understand the relevance of taking videos more than we can ever appreciate and from Bobby's point of view I can imagine he would be mortified if I posted that video for all to see. That would of course be a step too far, I wouldn't want to exploit my son's vulnerabilities ever, let alone on social media, so it is absolutely never intended for those purposes, so why film it in the first place?

The next morning when as usual all had been forgotten and the black cloud over his head had passed I showed Bobby the footage and his reaction was not to justify his behaviour but to smile in an awkward 'did I really say that' type manner. I even got an apology out of him so it had been totally constructive, I deleted it in front of him, after all it's certainly not to be stored as a piece of kryptonite for me to pull out every time he goes off on one.

The lasting effects of what you could call 'Parental CCTV' are uncertain as of yet, I think if used in any other way than privately between parent and child it could be inflammatory and lead to kids filming parents mid-rant and posting that on the internet.

You can't whip your phone out every five minutes because your child didn't say please or thank you either because you'll become very predictable and appear as though you are making a training video for how to be the perfect child which will again just annoy and inflame.

It's a tactic that if ever should be reserved for the big stuff for the bigger kids, the moments when you can feel yourself just about ready to shout, it's a way of keeping composed knowing that the lesson can be learnt in a more constructive way. Bobby gets why I did it and he gets why I would do it again so will that stop him being unpleasant in the future? Let's wait and see.

In the meantime I will speak to Bobby about other ways for him to vent any frustration or anger he may be feeling so that it doesn't need to come in my direction with such force. You can't deny your child will go through fazes of highly charged emotional feelings, nor the right for them to express it in your direction because that's actually trust in disguise. They need an outlet, but if it spirals into something much bigger, then the best form of defence could just be to shoot from the pocket and hit record.