Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Reading as Discipline?

Rocketboy and Rocketgirl are quite the normal teens. They're really good kids, but they sometimes have trouble...following directions. As a result, both are currently grounded. Since Chuck and I get sick of giving the same old lectures, we try to choose our punishments carefully for maximum effect. For example, one of our most brilliant strategies is a snack of 1/2 a teaspoon of Wasabe paste for lying. This technique has dramatically cut down on the lying in our house or honed their skills to the point that we can't tell the difference anymore.

With this most recent grounding, I decided to be innovative in my "punishment" for Rocketgirl. Reading is a love we both share, and quite honestly, she hasn't been reading anything but books for school here lately. I also suspect that some of the kids' collective boneheadedness as of late is related to a sense of disconnectedness in our house. Ever since the family passing we had several weeks ago, everything just seems a bit askew. Voila! I decided that Rocketgirl's "punishment" would be to read five books of MY choosing before she's ungrounded. She has some measure of control over her own fate in how fast she completes the books, and it's a way to connect us a bit more over discussion of the books.

What did I choose for her?






  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver because I thought she would like it, I want to know how it is before I read it, and it's about love. That has teenage girl written all over it.
  • I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore because we'll probably go see the movie as a family when we have the time and some extra cash.
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room (poems) by Billy Collins because she recently asked for a poetry book, these are accessible and deal with the everyday, and there are quite a few about writing and reading.
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd because in some small way it reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird which she read and loved this past summer.
  • The Secret Lifes of People in Love by Simon Van Booy because she loves writing almost as much as reading, she specializes in short stories, and I know these will tug at her heart strings.
I have to say, I did question this unorthodox approach to "punishment" at first. Would it work? Would she "get" it? Would it really do us all any good?

It's only been a few days, but so far, things are great. She's finished Sailing Alone Around the Room, she's halfway through Delirium, and she's well on her way to finishing the rest. Sunday she came bounding down the stairs with Delirium open in her hands and said, "Andi! I'm in love with this book!" She then asked if she could add ANOTHER BOOK to her required pile--a review copy of a slim little volume called SkateFate by Juan Felipe Herrera (which she's already finished).

In short, it wasn't a traditional punishment, but a sneaky, step-mom way of slowing her down, getting her involved in something positive, that we can talk about, and that will structure her time a little more. I have to give myself a pat on the back this time. I think I'll do the same thing to Rocketboy the next time he needs straightening up. We'll see if it sticks! :)

23 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good plan to me!

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  2. I wish my parents would have given me books as punishment! Except then I would have gotten into trouble all the time. :)

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  3. Creative! I love Billy Collins -- reading him when I was in high school is how I started to believe I could actually understand poetry.

    (The wasabi punishment sounds awful though!)

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  4. Books as punishment would have been great! I had to wait until I had my own money to really read. I wasn't lucky to have piles of unread books laying around my house!

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  5. Reading isn't really a punishment but a way to redirect their misbehaviour. Like it! I'm guessing wasabe paste tastes pretty awful? Never had the (dis)pleasure :D

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  6. I love your 'punishment'; in fact, why didn't my mother ever do that? I think Billy Collin's book will be a wonderful choice, especially.

    Your story reminds me of the only way I could get the Partin twins, many years ago at our elementary school, to behave. It was to make them write cursive during recess. "Oh, Mrs. S.," they said, "please, no curfise!" It still makes me smile.


    If nothing else, your children will be much wiser!

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  7. Hmmm the wasabe paste sounds like an innovative punishement but i can see how kids these days would find ways to work around it. The reading 'punishment' is an excellent idea. Give her another way to direct some of that energy. I for one would not complain if i had to read I am Number Four as part of my punishment. I cant wait to see the movie.

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  8. Wow! That's a very creative plan. I would love to read books while I am grounded :D I wish my mother had done the same with me lol

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  9. I think that is a GREAT idea and one I will need to remember for future use. It is redirecting her attitude and emotions to something else, and since she likes reading, it isn't something she can throw in your face later. :)

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  10. Not a bad idea if I do say so myself :) And I love how you chose books that were completely different from each other. Nice job!

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  11. I wish my mother punished me like this. I would love to get my hands on Delirium and The Secret Life of Bees. :)

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  12. That is THE best "punishment" I've ever heard of, and the fact that she wanted an extra book....awesome! Just wait until Ethan gets older =)

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  13. Oh, I wish I'd thought of that . . . and the wasabi treatment might have worked wonders on eldest.

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  14. I have never understood the use of something spicy as a punishment. I always thought is as a disservice a way to force the dislike of a food one a person who might have actualy liked that food.

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  15. I do not think this form of punishment would have worked on me as a kid. I used to be terrified that my parents would get angry enough with me that they would forbid me to read (but that never happened).

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  16. I think that this is a brilliant plan of action. You have my two thumbs up of approval. You go girl. :D

    Ironically, my mom used to TAKE AWAY my reading & bookstore opps when I was in elementary school if I misbehaved.

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  17. Hahaha better watch it, she'll be getting into trouble just so she can get slapped with this "punishment"! ;)

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  18. Wow, really good punishment idea!

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  19. I love it! I was once grounded from reading, which proved to be quite effective (as taking away the thing your child cares about most is). It's nice to create the dialogue too.

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  20. This sounds like a really constructive way to discipline your kids. I have to say I'm very much in love with the idea of it. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  21. Interesting. As long as both ideas work to produce the result you want, they're good ideas. I wish more people would take the long view on consequences. The goal should be changing certain behaviors, not serving "justice."

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  22. Billy Collins....sigh...

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