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A parent asked a discipline question. As part of my answer, I wrote the following:

By the way, I think reducing video game time is a great consequence. I personally am not a big fan of grounding, although I do recognize that many people are. The consequences I like best are the ones that aren't black/white, but a matter of degree. For example, my 12yo has been wanting more independence lately, but when he didn't come home on time on a Saturday, there was a consequence the next day. I didn't cancel what he was planning to do that day, but I did reduce the degree of independence -- in other words, I shortened the leash. I did tell him that he could try again with an independent outing again in a few weeks.

A consequence might be that the child doesn't get to come along to the grocery store (if that's something he enjoys), or that he'll have a couple of extra housework chores, etc.

A moderator removed much of this in her edit, with the comment "Please mind the personal anecdotes."

Since we are expected to substantiate our answers with either authoritative sources, or personal experience, I am confused -- how do we substantiate with personal experiences without describing any of them?

Note that in the same thread, Erica, another moderator, used information from her own parenting experience to good effect.

I would like to reinstate my contribution to the discipline as I wrote it, since the example I included was intended not to entertain but to make my statement about black and white consequences clearer. However, I would like to make sure I would not be stepping on anyone's toes by doing a roll-back.

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By now you should have a pretty good sense that a moderator's edit is something you should at least take a little bit of time to think about. I'm not saying they're all perfect; I'm just saying you should ask yourself if there's something to be learned from it.

Comparing your answers to those of others who routinely contribute in a manner consistent with the site's standards (and in Erica's case, that's certainly an understatement) is valid; in fact, reading well-received answers is actually a good way to learn about a site's culture. But you should also be aware that these other users have not engaged excessively in a manner requiring a lot of guidance or moderator intervention. It may not seem fair, but users who consistently post good content become trusted users and rarely get edited.

Unfortunately, users who frequently post inappropriate content have frequent edits. A moderator does not always treat posts by such users the same way they treat a trusted user's posts. We do try to be even handed and fair, but we don't read every single post and making sure each meets site standards. When something is brought to our attention by flagging, we do see things we missed.

Someone who has posted content requiring moderator intervention will be scrutinized more closely, especially those who have been suspended and come back seeming to be posting similar content.


You wrote

By the way, I think reducing video game time is a great consequence. I personally am not a big fan of grounding, although I do recognize that many people are. The consequences I like best are the ones that aren't black/white, but a matter of degree. For example, my 12yo has been wanting more independence lately, but when he didn't come home on time on a Saturday, there was a consequence the next day. I didn't cancel what he was planning to do that day, but I did reduce the degree of independence -- in other words, I shortened the leash. I did tell him that he could try again with an independent outing again in a few weeks.

I removed

The consequences I like best are the ones that aren't black/white, but a matter of degree. For example, my 12yo has been wanting more independence lately, but when he didn't come home on time on a Saturday, there was a consequence the next day. I didn't cancel what he was planning to do that day, but I did reduce the degree of independence -- in other words, I shortened the leash. I did tell him that he could try again with an independent outing again in a few weeks.

Much of that is, in my opinion, too chatty, something discussed with you many times before. Also, I frankly don't see a take-home message in it. You say, in effect:

I like consequences that are a matter of degree. My son wants independence, so when he was irresponsible with it, I took some of his independance away.

What's the actual lesson for the OP? It's cloudy to me.

Maybe it is over-edited. If you could edit it to be less chatty and more helpful, I would be pleased to see you do so. I don't think irreparable harm was done. I'll leave it to others to say.

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A key question with anecdote is how directly topical it is.

The original Question is broadly about discipline, but really focuses on what to do when a child self-selects a punishment which is overly draconian.

When he genuinely feels bad about something he's done wrong and we tell him off, he will sometimes "punish" himself by giving us his favourite toy, his latest dose of pocket money, or deciding not to go outside / to the next family outing because he "doesn't deserve it"

How should I respond to a child attempting to punish themselves?


In my Answer, I was able to discuss a situation in which my child behaved the same way, as well as my response.

Once she came to me, very subdued, and handed me a list of escalating punishments that she thought would help discourage her in future...

We had a long, long talk about whether any of that would really help, or just stress her out and make her feel unappreciated...

In this case the initial anecdote (her self-punishment) was to show that I have experienced this, and the second (our talk and its outcome) was to discuss what worked in that situation, and why. "This is how I responded to a child attempting to punish themselves, and what happened..."

I'll also note in passing (in what I suppose is an anecdote, haha) that I rewrote that section frequently while composing the answer. I wrote, then removed, some parts about my emotions when she did this, some sarcastic sentence about how her proposed ideas were absurd... Those bits were important for me expressing my feelings, but didn't provide any information for the OP. Since the goal of an Answer is to help them, my chatty "can you believe what this kid did!" commentary didn't belong.


Consider:

my 12yo has been wanting more independence lately, but when he didn't come home on time on a Saturday, there was a consequence the next day

This is a situation where a child deserved a consequence. However, the eventual consequence was not one that he self-imposed, so it is not directly related to what the OP is ultimately wanting to know.

I therefore think that editing to remove this anecdote brings things back on-topic. The Question isn't really about punishment and consequences (the OP seems to have a fairly well-considered system in place), but what to do when a child takes things to an illogical extreme.

If your anecdote had gone something like:

When my son didn't come home on time, I told him he couldn't go out with his friends on the next outing. Then he declared he was grounding himself for three months!

My response was [etc.]

That sounds more like the situation the OP is finding himself in, and so the parental response to that would be an anecdote that helps answer his question.


See also:

  • For additional reference, look at your answer here: the story about teaching a child to threaten the snails he was afraid of by referencing a familiar dessert works very well. Even though the OP didn't ask about snail phobias specifically, you tied it back into weather phobias. – Acire Jul 19 '15 at 12:20
  • Thanks! - - One thing - I don't think the OP's discomfort with the child's self-imposed punishment (her word) was with it being out of proportion, I think it was because she saw it as threatening her authority as the one who dictates punishments. And I think she was partly motivated to post a question because she was starting to doubt needing to feel her authority threatened. – aparente001 Jul 19 '15 at 13:50
  • That would be worth clarifying with the OP! – Acire Jul 19 '15 at 13:53
  • I do happen to find grounding a not very productive consequence most of the time. I realize many parents do use it on a regular basis, so I tried to tread carefully. However, I think the reason this parent (and perhaps some others) use it so often is that they don't know what else to use. Therefore, for me, the example was important. For me to be able to get an idea across to someone that might be new to them, it's not enough to describe the theory, I also need to provide an example. What I was trying to introduce was the idea of gradation, in contrast with all or nothing. – aparente001 Jul 19 '15 at 13:53
  • Regarding clarifying with the OP -- I wrote "When he chooses an additional consequence, as long as he's not questioning the consequence you determined, I don't think what he's doing amounts to questioning your authority." If that's not clear enough, could you suggest an edit? Thanks. – aparente001 Jul 19 '15 at 13:54
  • I still feel that your anecdote isn't really typical to what the OP was asking, but went on another direction -- discussing something that was on the question, but not the core information bring sought. – Acire Jul 19 '15 at 18:24
  • I agree that in that last part, I wasn't answering the explicit question she asked. However, I think that the basic problem she described won't be solved without moving toward a more gentle style of discipline. Hopefully she is getting the point where she is ready to use her growing empathy for the child to expand her repertoire. – aparente001 Jul 20 '15 at 2:04

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