Crime and Punishment

Because I in no way agreed with the effectiveness of suspending my son as a mode of discipline, and because I wanted him to understand the seriousness of his actions, I came up with my own “punishment”:

“Hey, Potatoes!”

[looks up from his knex] “What?”

“You done with all the work your teacher sent home?”


“Since you and I both know that suspension is more like a reward than anything else, I have something else for you to do.”

He eyes me warily.

“I want you to write at least two pages of different endings to this story. What else might have happened–besides Mr. Garza taking them away–if you brought firecrackers to school?”

He looks very puzzled.

“Like what if Kid X had brought another lighter to school and lit them, what might have happened?”

And there was much groaning and moaning, but he got out a piece of paper. (And folded it in half so that he could technically get two pages out of one page worth of writing.)

His list started like so:

  1. [Kid X] would get expelled.
  2. There might be a small boom.
  3. It might make colors.
  4. the wik might go out.
  5. it might stop lighting.
  6. [Kid X] might go to jail

You see what I mean? No idea why bringing firecrackers to school is a problem. So we talk about other possibilities. What if the “wik” just  looked like it went out, and a kindergartner picked it up and it blew her hand off, and you had to know that was your fault for the rest of your life? (Totally impossible with a firecracker the size of a birthday candle, I think, but let’s get creative if we can’t be realistic, which clearly we can’t in this district.) And so his list continued:

       6. the bark might catch fire.
       7. his hand might get hurt.
       8. somebody might get hurt.
       9. a teacher might get hurt.

Etc, etc, etc.  Whose consequence better fits the crime?  Teaches the kid anything at all?

Not that I would ever want an administrator’s job, or envy this one her’s. But have we failed to teach the difference between discipline and punishment to our principal candidates in college perhaps?

3 responses to “Crime and Punishment

  • Ruth

    Wow! such tame stuff! When we did that type of thing with C he really got into it and made up fantasical stories. Like ‘the lighter would misfire and blow off his arm and the fire cracker would land in the principle’s hair and catch it on fire and the secretary would try to put it out with the fire extinguisher and get her in the face so she would be in the hospital and scarred physically and emotional for the rest of her life and bully every little kid that came to her school and make them cry’ – you get the idea …
    we actually encouraged it because he was a. writing b. thinking c. doing something besides watching TV or playing a video game (definitley NOT allowed to do those when he was in trouble) and d. he was venting and saying how idiotic the principal (or at time a parent) was in a harmless and safe way. Oh and we did allow him to ‘research’ possible scenarios on the internet – phewwttt – what ever …

  • kimkiminy

    There’s a good reason why fireworks are illegal. They cause fires. What if he’d burned the school down? What if that started a massive wildfire, killing scores of people, destroying 2,500 homes, and forcing thousands of innocent into shelters? (I’m not exaggerating; this happened in SD County in 2003.)
    What if he’d blown his own hand off, or even with a tiny cracker, a third-degree burn? Disfigurement for life. Show him pictures.

    This month’s excellent feature article in National Geographic is about the teenage brain. I know he’s only 10, but between around age 12 to 25 or so, there’s a lot of risk-taking. They don’t equate consequences versus pleasure. The immediate reward is much more valued than the ultimate result. There are very real, important, evolutionary reasons why this happens, but none of that makes it any easier to raise them, unfortunately.

  • Flamingo Dancer

    Fantastic! The teaching of consequences is one of the most important lessons that our children need to learn. Well done!

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