Holy crapsicles, I’ve figured out a new way to punish my kids and it might actually work!!

Okay, I know when it comes to punishing our kids we’re supposed to give them time-outs or send them to their rooms or make them go to bed without supper and shit like that. But what I’ve learned in my house is that these punishments don’t work anymore. I don’t know if they’re just overused and worn out or whether it’s that my kids are older now.

Like if I give Zoey a time out these days, she basically sits on the doormat by the front door and sings to herself and calls Holden over and then I have to say no to Holden because she’s having a time out right now and then he gets all pissed off and then we’ve got twice the flailing and snotting and yelling. Fun times.

So lately we’ve switched up the punishments in our house a bit.

Like a couple of weeks ago Zoey did something that was not okay at all. Like seriously not okay. I’m not going to go into it here because she will possibly read this one day and disown me and I wish that blogs had a function that made them spontaneously combust the moment your kiddos can read but unfortunately they do not. Anyways, let’s just say it involved pooping. And a bathmat. And holy shit was I mad as a cat with tinfoil on its feet.

ME: Young lady, you knew what you were doing is really wrong. You’re going to bed right now and Daddy and I are going to tell you your punishment in the morning.

THAT is how pissed I was. I couldn’t even come up with a punishment at the moment. I mean usually when my blood is boiling I just yell out the first punishment I can think of.

ME: That’s it!!! You’re not getting TV for three days!!!!!

And then twenty minutes later I’m kicking the shit out of myself because I just desperately need to plop her in front of the TV while I make an important phone call or get some work done or just curl up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor.

Telling her we would dole out her punishment the next morning was basically the equivalent to saying “Don’t do that again or else,” but it sounded a whole lot better. Plus it gave me a little time to cool off because if I doled out her punishment at that moment I might have taken away TV for the rest of her life.

So the hubby and I had hours to talk about her punishment that night (translation: we sat in front of the boob tube and then right before bed we were like awwww shit, we forgot to come up with a punishment and then we figured one out quickly).

Hmmmm, what should we do. Take away her American Girl Doll? Uhhh, yeah, she’ll be so upset if she can’t play with the doll that’s been sitting in the corner collecting dust for the past three weeks. Okay, what if we say no Legos this week? What on earth would she do? Play with the 9,000 other toys she has? Pretty much anything we came up with wouldn’t have had much of an impact. So we thought and thought and thought and finally came up with a good one. Wait, but is that too harsh? Are we being too mean? But we decided no, we needed to come up with something that would have an impact.

(the next morning)

ME: Zoey, do you remember what you did last night?

ZOEY: Yes.

ME: Okay, so your daddy and I decided that for the next week you cannot wear any skirts or dresses.

ZOEY: Okay.

Shit shit shit, she totally doesn’t care about our punishment. Aggghhh, and now we can’t change it and it’s not going to make a difference. We totally blew it.

(two days after she did something really wrong)

ZOEY: I want to wear that one.

ME: Nope Zoey, you can’t wear that because do you remember what you did the other night?

ZOEY: Yes.

(the day after that)

ZOEY: Can I just wear one skirt today?

ME: Nope. Next time think before you do something you know you shouldn’t do.

And it was never a big fight. It was just a good discussion point every morning for a week. And just by chance the punishment ended on the day of the daddy-daughter dance and she got to put on a dress again.



So now when the crotchmuffins act more like crotches than muffins, we try not to react too quickly and get wayyyy more thoughtful about our punishments. Like do you notice anything strange in this picture?


Yup, lately Holden lovvvvves wearing mittens or socks on his hands all day long inside. It’s either some craaaazy phase or he’s got OCD. Kids are so F’ing weird, you never know.

Anyways, whatta we do if he misbehaves?

ME: That’s it, you are not allowed to wear mittens for the rest of the day unless we’re outside.

And that’s when he freaks out but it only lasts for a few minutes and it totally works.

(Later when he won’t stop banging on pots and my head feels like it might literally explode and the last thing I need is to have to clean up brain matter all over the kitchen)

ME: Holden, if you don’t stop banging on those pots right now, I’m totally going to take away your sock mittens!!

And he stops immediately.

Don’t get me wrong. I know this punishment is only going to last as long as this crazy phase does, but there’s always something important I can take away from the kids. Like recently Zoey started a paperclip chain and she calls it her clip collection and it’s stupid as shit but the other day I threatened to take away her clip collection and she was like noooooooooo and acted like it was the worst thing on earth that I could do.

Anyways, the moral of the story is you gotta come up with the right punishments for your own kids. And if you see us out and about and Zoey is wearing a skirt and Holden has socks on his hands then you know that things are kinda sorta okay right now.


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There are 32 comments for this article
  1. Jenn at 10:09 am

    Perfect punishment idea! I will have to try this in my 4 yr old

  2. Carrie Miller Smith at 10:12 am

    So, we’re a foster family which means, between all the arbitrary state rules-of-the-week regarding discipline and the fact that we have kids with atypical development – we have to get pretty creative. We have a similar situation with a daughter who is obsessed with dressing (in her opinion) to the 9s. When she misbehaves, the Ultimate Punishment is that she has to wear Ugly Boy Clothes to school. One time when she had wear them (really it was just a blue polo and a pair of jeans that she didn’t like because they weren’t completely bedazzled, but to her it was The End of the World) to school, she thought she’d get cute and used her art class time to paint all over her clothes. So then she had to wear the SAME Ugly Boy Clothes to school the next day. Oh, the horror of wearing THE SAME OUTFIT two days in a row, AND it was ugly to boot! That message definitely got across.

    • Wesley Smith at 11:02 am

      I’m Carrie’s husband. We do have to get very creative with punishment. I think this one is my favorite:

      Our kids’ previous foster parents weren’t exactly the best caretakers, and our kids had gotten into the habit of stealing candy whenever they wanted some.

      When our kids moved in with us, it was immediately apparent that our son was stealing candy from a dish in the living room even though he swore up and down that he didn’t. (Remind me to tell you about the time her tried to convince me that *I was picking *his* nose.)

      A few days later I discovered a way to teach him a lesson. I found some dog treats at the store that looked like Oreo cookies, and replaced the candy in the dish with the dog treats. Sure enough, the boy was so focused on stealing the candy that he ate two dog treats before he realized that he wasn’t eating cookies.

      Never stole from that dish again.

      • Jamie at 3:56 pm

        Hahahahahaha that’s a great story. Lesson learned

  3. Crystal at 10:17 am

    When my stepson was younger, we’d gotten some hand me down clothes from a friend. One item was a Jeff Gordon t-shirt. Now, I don’t know or care the first thing about NASCAR, but at the time, the boy was REALLY into it and Jeff Gordon was NOT his favorite. So of course we used wearing that shirt as punishment. Worked like a charm.

  4. Jenn at 10:25 am

    Love it! I took away tv and then spent the evening having to colour, and listen to watch this. It’s not like she watches tv all day, but that precious hour I lost felt like days! I like the creative punishments!

  5. JF at 10:26 am

    I took away all of my daughter’s Elsa shirts for 4 days (because she is 4) earlier this week. she has been on her best behavior ever since!

  6. Lyndsey at 10:27 am

    Carrie Miller Smith is an evil genius.

  7. Bree klipfel at 10:35 am

    My father use to come up with really creative ways to punish my brother and i when we were in public- like the mall- or church. instead of spanking us- he would make us hug- cheek to cheek- in the mall- or the church aisle- or the manhole cover of our cul-de-sac while all the other neighborhood kids watched. super embarrassing. if it was only one of us- my father sent us to our room and we had to stare at a spot on the ceiling while laying in bed. one spot. if he came in and we weren’t staring at the spot- we were in even more trouble. and thinking back- these punishments were so far worse than anything else when i was a kid- when my kids are old enough to argue- i’m sure i will be using the same “punishments”

  8. NewbDad at 11:04 am

    Awesome! I love hearing about creative punishments because they are almost always funny to us adults but have a huge impact on the childrens. One thing I have heard of doing is, instead of raising your voice when they do something wrong, you lean in really close and whisper the reprimand. It makes them stop and listen to what you are saying and seems to have a much bigger impact.

  9. Kate at 11:08 am

    When I was a kid, my mom would make me eat hot lunch at the school cafeteria instead of getting to take my beloved daily sack lunch of PB&J, Cheetos and an apple…I HATED it, totally worked…and I realize now, was a little luxury for her to not have the hassle of packing my lunch in the morning. Genius.

  10. Sheryl at 11:31 am

    The most creative punishment is the one that hurts them the most (not physically of course). Just a warning…the older they get, the more creative you have to be lol. It is so worth it in the end because they grow into the most fantastic adult human beings.

  11. Holli at 12:00 pm

    After struggling one day with my 3 yr old, I had taken away almost everything and was at my wits end because she refused to listen. I finally made her take off her beloved Snow White nightgown (yeah my kid wears PJ’s all day!) and it was like finally $#@! got real for her and that was the end of her life as she knew it! So I can completely relate and fear the day she no longer loves that nightgown!

  12. Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying at 12:18 pm

    Character t-shirts. That was the BIG punishment for my son was he was Holden’s age. If he was being punished, I’d take off his character tee and make him wear a boring plain tee or a golf tee. IT WAS TORTURE FOR HIM.

  13. Stephanie at 1:42 pm

    My son was a horrible door slammer. So I made him open and slam his door over and over for 15 minutes. After 5 minutes he was begging me to stop. I made him continue until I had a terrible headache. Immediately after I thought I made a terrible mistake. But he never slammed the door again. That was 15 years ago, so I have to think it worked!

  14. Jennifer at 2:44 pm

    Perfect. We have 3 kids ages 14, 11, and 3. I also have been teaching 17 years. The best discipline is that which fits that kid the best. Our oldest? Cell phone or change the Netflix pw. Our baby? No dress up clothes. Our son? No playing outside with friends (seasonal) or no video games and electronics. Each kid is different. You will constantly have to adjust. But the only way it works is if you know them, and known them well. 🙂

  15. Tanya Monroe at 2:57 pm

    Fantastic ideas. My only cool punishment when my children were young was if the were fighting and being little hateful gusts to each other they had to put hands behind their backs and stand with their noses together. If they pushed and shoved they just had to stay longer. Sometimes I would get dinner started while they stood there by me with noses together. Lol. By the end they were giggling and ready to go play nicely. I also would two them with the little one they would have to hold her hand for twenty minutes. Long time of you don’t want to be around the Littles!!!

    • Catherine Bowman at 6:01 am

      I wish I’d thought of this when my kids were little! They’re 4 years apart and there were some nasty fights. (Mostly because he couldn’t have his baby sister doing everything he wanted to do. *gasp!* Including going to school when she was 3, rather than waiting until she was 4, because she just HAD to do what he was doing. …And she wanted to play with everything in the kindergarten classroom.) But this would have stopped them immediately.

  16. Pretty Good Wif at 3:19 pm

    Love the post and love the ideas in the comments too. My kiddo’s only 11 months. At least when he acts up down the road I can look forward to coming up with creative punishments.

  17. Cassi at 5:01 pm

    My oldest gets grounded and he can’t get ungrounded until he completes a set amount of chores. He did something very very bad and he had to do 100 chores…it was a long haul but it got the point across – don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time.

    • Theresa at 6:56 pm

      My kids are all teenagers, and that has been the best for us as well.

  18. carey at 5:08 pm

    My boys have to write an apology letter to the other if it was a fight between them. It must include what they did, that they are sorry and a determined number of ways (depending on age and printing ability) they plan being a better brother. If was not an issue between them then they write lines (again the number is age and ability dependant). One son who struggles with focus and attention and who’s indiscretions are not normally malicious in any way can really take a blow to his self esteem. His lines are sometimes a positive spin on the indiscretion like if he wrote on something he shouldn’t but it was obviously not intentional then his 5 lines might be “I will focus my spectacular creativity on paper”.

  19. Lauryn at 5:29 pm

    The only punishment that my daughter has actually cried over was deleting her shows from the dvr. FINALLY broke her to tears. Nothing else got that response. I know how upset I have gotten when something is accidentally deleted. We don’t have a dvr anymore though, but it was highly effective on a 7 year old…

  20. Sue Ryan at 8:18 pm

    Well, I am in my sixties, but here goes: my mother used to beat the daylights out of me with a wooden spoon and it bloody well hurt. I hid the wooden spoon once, I dropped it behind the kitchen stove, lol, and so when she couldn’t find it, she got a cane from the raspberries in the garden, and, in front of my friends, she whacked me over the knuckles with the cane. Another punishment was (my father worked in London and commuted and got home about 7:30pm and it was the highlight of my day) to tell me that Daddy would not come upstairs to say goodnight when he got home when I was in bed. That was the one that really did me in. This lasted for a week (and after a couple of days Daddy sneaked in and gave me a lovely hug and kiss goodnight when she wasn’t looking). My crimes were usually so minor, like once I picked some flowers from our garden and gave them to my old next door neighbor,
    well that was hell on wheels for me. We didn’t have television until I was 16, so no tv wasn’t a threat! But in those days we were punished for what now seems such inconsequential stuff, like answering back, or looking through (snooping) in the drawers in my parents’ bedroom.

  21. Midnight Sparkles at 11:40 am

    That’s amazing! I never thought about taking clothes away. Electronics yes. Favorite toys yes. Favorite clothes… New territory. So many ideas!

  22. Jamie at 3:55 pm

    I just want to take a minute to say, I bought your book and I’m not even half way through it and it is by far the best book I’ve ever read and I have read hundreds of thousands of books in my 30 years on this plant. Just yesterday I was having a terrible day, my 5 yr old has been sick since Monday with a really high fever and I’m sure you understand the level of exhaustion and worry I’ve been going through, not counting the fact that my husband hasn’t helped me at all whatsoever. But I sat outside to take a breather and was reading your book and I laughed hysterically, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I even laughed at all, but you had me crying from laughing so hard. So, just know that your helping other moms, not just with the laughing, but helping ease that feeling of being alone, the wondering if it’s just me or if other moms feel like their just losing their s**t. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. skrappergirl at 11:46 am

    First and foremost….don’t take the TV away from your kids!!!! It is nothing but pure torture for YOU!!! My husband used to take away our kids tv and then leave for work for the next 14 hours. Yes, those were the days I had divorce papers ready to be served upon his a*s. 😉

    Secondly…you are genius!!!! Not wearing a dress would have killed my daughter at that age. Kudos to you.

  24. Megan Smith at 11:02 am

    My four-year-old son hates to be barefoot. Absolutely will not be barefoot. (bathtime is a joy, btw.) So when he’s misbehaving, I threaten to take his socks off. Works every time.

  25. amy at 12:44 am

    I fail to see the amusement or the lesson behind humiliating your kids. Forcing them to wear “ugly” clothes, feeding them dog biscuits, etc; these things are not good lessons. They are cruel and mean. I am all about creative punishments, but humiliating your children is never appropriate.

  26. Stephanie at 2:09 pm

    I totally hid the wooden spoon too! Love this comment. My mother ended up using one of the paint stirrers instead. The next week we had about 5 brand new wooden spoons in the house.