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Is this too harsh of a punishment?

post #1 of 204
Thread Starter 
The other night at the park, 4 y.o. DD threw a really bad tantrum as we were leaving (because I would not let her ride another child's bike to our car). I told her that if she could not calm down (I could not get her into the car and she was screaming and trying to run away from me in the parking lot) then we were not going to playgroup for a week, because this is the second playgroup meltdown in several weeks. She did not stop, though I was able to get her into the car and buckled into her carseat, where she was at least safe.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Someone in playgroup is hosting a pizza party. We canceled our RSVP because I told DD no playgroup for a week, and I feel like I have to follow through. Some of the other playgroup moms commented that they felt like no playgroup for a week was too harsh a punishment (we're talking like 1-2 events here, not 7 days jam packed with activities), and that I should have let her go to the pizza party. Today at school, DD's friend got picked up early for the pizza party, and she told DD that she was going to the party, which made DD start crying at school. So when I picked her up, the teacher asked if she would be ok, and I said she would be fine, that she had gotten in trouble, and her punishment was that she could not go to the pizza party. The teacher commented that it seemed kind of harsh, and I was like, well, I set out the rules for her, and she broke them, and I have to be consistent and stick to the punishment. DD was happy and cheerful when I picked her up, btw.

I really don't think that making her stay home from a playgroup event after tantrums at two other playgroup events is really all that harsh. It seems as close to natural consequences as I could get -- if you can't behave at playgroup, then you can't go to playgroup. (Leaving the park at the time of the tantrum would not really have been 'punishment' as we were already on our way to the car when she threw the tantrum.)

Her friend's mom at school told her that they were going to a family party, and that's why DD was not going, so in the car, when DD told me that, I said no, it was a playgroup party, and the reason that she wasn't going was because of her tantrum the other night. Then she started screaming at me, and I calmly explained that it was exactly *that* kind of behavior that was causing her to have to stay home, because I cannot take her to someone's house if she is behaving like that. She quieted down and said ok, and then was fine after that, and has been fine all afternoon.

Did I handle this ok? WWYD? I always feel like I suck at this discipline stuff...
post #2 of 204
I really don't think that was appropriate.

In general I am not in favor of punishments. They are random and meaningless and smack of authority for the sake of authority.

The fit at the park did not relate to the pizza party in any way. It seems more like you are trying to get back at her for inconveniencing you which seems more childish than the fit.

Not going to another event is not a natural consequence at all. *Perhaps* a logical one, but not a natural one.

A natural consequence would be her friends seeing her throw a fit or banging her knee on the pavement as she was thrashing.

This was clearly a punishment, not a consequence. It was parent imposed.

She's only 4. She's going to throw fits. It's your job to help her negotiate her feelings, not punish her for them.

-Angela
post #3 of 204
Thread Starter 
Forgot to add..

I think that a huge part of the problem also was that she was very tired by the time the whole thing went down, she had been at school all day and then we went to the park after, so by the time we went home, I'm sure she was really exhausted. She will go and go and go until you make her stop, she does not want to miss anything. We are def. not going to do any more playgroup stuff on school days, at least for a while, because I think it is too much for her to handle in one day.

Off to read replies...
post #4 of 204
I think it is WAY too much.

4 year olds have melt downs. I can't imagine punishing my son like that because he was disappointed that we were leaving Playgroup.

Your daughter didn't even understand WHY she wasn't going to the party .
She probably does not remember even throwing the fit originally.

This seems to be about control...."You do what I say, when I say, or you will suffer the consequences. Maybe then you will learn to do what I say"

That seems like the kind of thinking behind this punishment.

Is it really THAT horrible to have your 4 yo throw a fit?

Why?
Does it embarrass you that she isn't "Under Control" and doing what you ask? Does it seem like she is the only one who does it?

You should figure out why this is so upsetting for you. Because this really is typical of many 4 yo kids, and I am sure that she will outgrow it. But you don;t want to damage your relationship by being punitive about this...

And please don't think that I am trying to be snarky...GD has been a LONG rocky road for me and I am learning every day. I certainly don't think I am any better than you.
post #5 of 204
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by alegna View Post
The fit at the park did not relate to the pizza party in any way. It seems more like you are trying to get back at her for inconveniencing you which seems more childish than the fit.
Just wanted to respond to this. I see what you're saying, but I disagree - believe me, *I* would have loved to go too. I'm a single mom and don't get a lot of adult time, so by us not going, I'm missing out on some much needed social interaction for myself. It's not about getting back at her, it's about a desperate need and desire to not only get to the bottom of what's causing the behavior, but to teach her to more constructively communicate her feelings, rather than resorting to screaming and hitting.
post #6 of 204
Screaming and hitting eh?

I don't know, it's hard for me to say because I was not there. I know with my child, there are temper tantrums that seem reasonable to me, like I get that she is upset and freaking out and can't control her emotions in that moment. In those times I am able to be empathic and understanding and help her through.

Then there is another class of tantrum that is about raging upon the other party (um, me). Screaming in an aggressive way, yes hitting has played a part sometimes, just freaking out in a manner that is way out of proportion to what is going on and that seems designed to communicate anger in a really disrespectful, 'gonna make everyone miserable' sort of way.

That kind of temper tantrum I might respond to in a similar way as you did.

I don't know about the connection of consequences, again coz I don't know your kid. Mine I would feel comfortable explaining that we're not doing xyz because of abc last week. Ideally a more direct consequence would be best, but sometimes it doesn't work out like that. And also *I* might genuinely not feel like taking the little screamer to a playdate after dealing with two major, aggressive meltdowns recently, yk? In which case, I would not do it and would explain why, and I myself would be perfectly comfortable with that.
post #7 of 204
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dubfam View Post
Is it really THAT horrible to have your 4 yo throw a fit?

Why?
Does it embarrass you that she isn't "Under Control" and doing what you ask? Does it seem like she is the only one who does it?

You should figure out why this is so upsetting for you. Because this really is typical of many 4 yo kids, and I am sure that she will outgrow it. But you don;t want to damage your relationship by being punitive about this...

And please don't think that I am trying to be snarky...GD has been a LONG rocky road for me and I am learning every day. I certainly don't think I am any better than you.
Oh goodness no, she's not the only one. If I had a dime for every time I saw someone leave the park or a store with a screaming child, well...you know.
post #8 of 204
lab, I don't think that sounds too harsh. It sounds like you were afraid for her safety and tried to get a "logical" consequence. You didn't ground her from all fun for a week or take her favorite toys. I agree with you that running off in a parking lot is not ok, it's scary. I think you did fine and can move on from here. 4 y/o's do throw tantrums, but that doesn't mean you can't ever try and set some limits. Maybe she needs a break from all that activity too?
post #9 of 204
I still struggle sometimes with punishment vs. discipline, so I'm going to go through your post using the questions I ask myself.

What do you want to teach her?
Not to throw fits at play dates.

Why does she throw fits at the end of playdates?
Because she's tired and overstimulated.

Does this teach her not to be tired and overstimulated?
No...............but it keeps her from being tired and overstimulated. But then she knows she's missing something exciting/fun, and she's sad.

Ok, so what do you want to teach her?
Not to throw fits! To handle her feelings differently!

What are some ways to teach her to handle her feelings better?


And that, that is the million dollar question right now. So.....some ways to help her handle her feelings...

Empathise - "It's hard to leave when you're having fun, isn't it?"

Easy transitions - "We need to leave to go start dinner. We're having lasagna tonight! Yum! Do you want to help with the sauce?"

Teaching calm down methods - deep breaths, practicing good-byes and role playing with dolls, verbalizing her frustration..

I'm sure the mamas here can come up with a ton of great ideas to add to this!
post #10 of 204
In our house that would be an appropriate punishment.

If you cannot control yourself at a playgroup function then you do not get to go to playgroup. It is a fun event and if their behavior makes it unfun for others then they don't get to go.
post #11 of 204
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thismama View Post
Screaming and hitting eh?
Yeah. I mean, I'm used to tantrums, but she was pissed. She will usually scream and cry when she is upset, but she was physical, which really threw me, because I am not used to that. At one point when I was trying to get her out of the street, I was holding her, and she kicked my car hard enough that I lost my balance and almost sent the both of us tumbling into the road, but I caught myself at the last minute. Once I had her in the car, she was fighting me to try to get back out of the car, and she was flailing her arms and hit me across the face, which sent my glasses flying (luckily I caught them before they hit the ground!) Also, at some point during the struggle to get her out of the parking area and into the car, I dropped my cell phone (and did not realize it until I got home!), and had to end up getting someone to watch her after she went to sleep so that I could comb the park with a flashlight to find my cell phone. Then on the whole ride home, she told me she wanted to live with her daddy (who visits her maybe 2x a year), and I know she's 4 and does not mean it and does not understand, but that still stings a bit.

FWIW, she's doing great, and I'm glad we didn't go to the pizza party. She was pretty tired after school, and we've been having a good time vegging out and watching cartoons together today.
post #12 of 204
Those things don't always work(calm down methods). I have one child that transitioned well. She needed extra support sometimes and those ideas were appropriate. My son threw terrible tantrums at times. I empathized *all the time* It broke my heart to see him that upset. BUT, we still had to leave places or GO places and sometimes I imposed limits. It seemed to help him think about his actions. I never felt he was being asked to reason more than he was ready to. He was able to remeber that "last time I screamed at the top of my lungs at leaving the store, we couldn't go see the kitties next at PetSmart because everyone was too upset." Those kinds of things made sense to him. Sometimes we just had to be creative. I think the OP deserves some support and listening to. 4 is a hard age in some ways.
post #13 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by littleaugustbaby View Post
Yeah. I mean, I'm used to tantrums, but she was pissed. She will usually scream and cry when she is upset, but she was physical, which really threw me, because I am not used to that.

FWIW, she's doing great, and I'm glad we didn't go to the pizza party. She was pretty tired after school, and we've been having a good time vegging out and watching cartoons together today.
Then it was definetely appropriate, considering you would be looking at a similar situation afte rthe party given how tired you say she is.

I'm glad that the two of you are having a good tantrum free evening!!
post #14 of 204
What I can see this punishment accomplishing:
Making her feel bad that she's a kid who sometimes loses it.
Making her feel like you don't accept that sometimes she's less than perfect.
Making her resent you because you took away the party.

What I can't see this punishment accomplishing:
Making her more able to control herself when she's too tired to do so.
Giving her greater emotional maturity than she has at this age.

How it would have gone down at our house... If the party was right after the park we would have gone home - not as a means of trying to teach a lesson but because clearly we were too tired and it just wasn't going to be a good plan for the day.

If it had been on another day, we'd have gotten out of the park the best we could. I would have acknowledged that we all have days where we make mistakes. I would resolve to next time try to avoid going to the park when we are overtired or over hungry. I would acknowledge that after the child probably feels embarrassed or sad about their behavior too. Before we go to the park next time I'd spend a bit of time planning together how we'd like that to go including talking about a peaceful exit strategy. We'd talk about "leaving on a happy note" and we'd have a plan for something desirable in the car (a snack, a music tape to listen to and we'd talk about that plan). I'd make sure we hit the park rested enough to implement the peaceful exit strategy. I'd hope that would help, but I'd know that four year olds are four they aren't forty and it may not go the way I wish. Sometimes the park will be left in tears. And, so it goes.
post #15 of 204
i would consider it quite harsh.

when we expect our over-tired toddlers to be on their best behavior, we're setting them up for failure. they really only have just so much control at that age...

if she threw her fit well-rested, that might be a different story. but i'd still just ignore it...
post #16 of 204
I think some things (days? events?) simply need to be forgiven and forgotten. No punishment necessary. Everyone has crappy times/days/events/moments. We might need a little extra stroking "Wow. That must have caught you off guard! Sometimes our emotions get the better of us, huh?"

The end.
post #17 of 204
there's a big difference between punishments and discipline. I'm not a fan of punishments...they serve no better purpose, IMO.

However, we all make mistakes...I would be honest with her and apologize, and talk with her about better ways to handle the situation (both of you) in the future.
post #18 of 204
I think it is fine. And maybe not the BEST solution ever, but certainly fine, and you know what? In the heat of the moment when the main thing seems to be safety, we don't all always pick the best. But I do agree in having picked it, you carry it out.

She's not going to be terribly damaged or something to miss playgroup this week.

That whole part of it is now water under the bridge.

More important, I think you hit upon the thing to better manage her so it doesn't happen again:

Quote:
I think that a huge part of the problem also was that she was very tired by the time the whole thing went down, she had been at school all day and then we went to the park after, so by the time we went home, I'm sure she was really exhausted. She will go and go and go until you make her stop, she does not want to miss anything. We are def. not going to do any more playgroup stuff on school days, at least for a while, because I think it is too much for her to handle in one day.
She's not of an age where she can tell for herself when too much is too much, so you have to do it for her -- set her up for success! So in future... no more afterschool playgroup things because it wears her out to the point of crazy.

GL!
A.
post #19 of 204
I don't think it's too harsh. She seemed to understand and accept that the reason she couldn't go to the party was because of the aggressive attitude she had when you pointed it out in the car.
post #20 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by littleaugustbaby View Post
this is the second playgroup meltdown in several weeks.
About a year ago DD1 did this every single time we went to a friend's house, friends left our house, we needed to leave her cousin's house, or we needed to go home from anywhere that she was having fun. It went on for months and months, and nothing I tried made it better. I showed empathy, I figured it was "just a bad day," I gave her ample warning before we left, I helped her "finish" what she was doing so she could feel ready to leave, everything!! I really was patient and tried to be as understanding about it as I could be.

The only thing that worked was for us to stop getting into situations where she would tantrum when it was time to leave. For me that also meant I didn't get to socialize and hang out with my friends sometimes. Once she realized her friends were getting together for lunch at So-n-So's house, but we weren't going because she would throw a tantrum when we left, the tantrums were diminished.

She still needs help transitioning. I give her warning before it's time to go. Sometimes she starts up one of her tantrums when it's time to go home, and I have to figure out a way to connect with her and calm her down. But she understands the ultimate consequence is that we avoid situations where she'll melt down upon leaving. She's grown out of it a little bit, but I also think missing out on some fun things helped her understand.

Also, she has a little sister, so often I was trying to get myself, all our things, the baby, and the raging 4-yr-old out to the car safely. It was impossible to do in certain situations depending on where the car was parked, etc. which was another reason we had to stop going out.
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