Thursday, July 12, 2007

The punishment

So much transpired today that I don't even know where to begin or even if I want to start going into it all. Given the physical and psychological toll this week's stress has wreaked on my body and mind, I really need to get to bed so I'll be brief.

Punishment was meted out in the form of 4 hours of labor as payback for the money stolen. She'll be forced to clean the house, do laundry and other things along those lines. In addition, unbeknownst to her, she is going to learn what it feels like to be extremely let down and betrayed, some of the same feelings I went through when she stole from me. She is under the impression that she is going to get the new Harry Potter book next week when it comes out, something she's really looking forward to. So I will take her to go buy it, but instead of going home so she can read it, I'm going to take her to the library where she will be forced to donate it instead. This isn't being done to be cruel, but rather to teach her a valuable lesson that I think she needs to learn.

Her father is of course against the book idea, though at the same time he said he'd stand behind me if I wanted to do it. He thinks it's wrong to betray her trust like that. I say it's wrong of her to be expecting to get this book without having ever asked if I'd buy it for her. It's wrong of her to continually betray my trust with her lies. Other punishments haven't worked, so maybe if she gets a taste of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of deceit, she will reflect more on her own behaviour and work to change it.

Any thoughts on this idea are welcomed, whether they are for or against it. I do still have a week to change my mind. My T, who helped come up with the idea, thinks I should do it. I also think I should do it, but also realize it will be very difficult for me to follow through.

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Borderline Crazy brought up some valid points in the comment she left and given what I've read on her blog, I fully understand where her point of view comes from. So with her comment in mind, I wanted to expound on my post. Maybe trying to be brief in this instance didn't fully explain the thought process behind the donating the book idea.

The punishment with the book isn't meant to be retaliation. There is no ill-will behind the idea, no thoughts of wanting to get even. I'm not looking for an "eye for an eye" type justice. The last thing in the world I want to do is hurt my daughter, which is why I mentioned that it would be very hard for me to follow through with this idea and that I still have a week to change my mind.

My therapist was actually the one that came up with the idea of taking something away from my daughter that means a lot to her. Not as a means to be cruel, but rather as a way for her to better understand the emotional impact negative behaviour causes, something I don't think she ever really reflects on but is very important that she understand or I don't think she will put in any honest effort to improve her behaviour.

She obviously knows the difference between right and wrong, but other attempts to help her see just how hurtful her actions are haven't worked. Grounding her hasn't helped. Talking with her at length about why her actions are wrong and the negative impact it has not only on me but also on herself hasn't helped either.

I did ask her what she thought her punishment should be and she said paying back the money she stole, which I had already decided would be required. She doesn't have a job or other means to money, that's why my therapist and I come up with the 4 hours of labor. We came to that by using an approximate rate of pay she would get based on her age, $5/hr x 4 hours = $20. She also mentioned grounding, which I know will have no impact on her whatsoever this time because the friends she usually goes out with are all out of state for the next several weeks, so she won't be going anywhere anyway unless it's with me or her father.

She wouldn't be banned from ever getting this book. The whole donation idea was just a way to get her to understand there's much more associated with negative behaviour than just the act itself. It does generate strong feelings that are sometimes more painful than the lie or loss of whatever is stolen. After donating the book, the idea was to let her experience the feelings and then let her know she can get the book by putting in the time to earn it.

After thinking about it further, I'm leaning more towards letting her know that I won't even buy the book at first. I don't have the money to buy one and donate it only to end up buying another copy later. She'll still experience the let down and disappointment from not being able to get it when she wants and is expecting to receive it. I'll then find out the price and have her work around the house in order to earn the book.


Anonymous Borderline Crazy said...

I don't have kids, so I'm violating my usual rule of giving opinions on their upbringing, but this plan seems like the kind of cleverly devised torture my mother used to use (granted, I didn't steal and lie!). It seems like the kind of thing that will cause your daughter to resent you forever and perhaps step up her bad behavior. I'm just bothered by your need to retaliate against her (make her feel as bad as she made you feel). Does that work with kids? I honestly don't know. My gut reaction is just that this punishment should perhaps be rethought---it makes my hair stand on end. Have you asked her what she thinks an appropriate punishment should be? Does there need to be more than payback for the money stolen?

9:54 AM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger Janna said...

Wow, that's a tough situation. I'm not real sure if I agree with the punishment, but not being a parent myself what do I know, right? Hope you feel better soon!

11:42 AM, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt she took the money to hurt you, so why do you feel the need to retaliate? This isn't about your hurt feelings. She is a teenager who did a dumb thing and felt the need to cover it up to avoid your wrath. Be the adult here. What you are planning is cruel. Have her work off her debt and let it go. If your therapist agrees with this kind of cruelty, then she needs some counselling of her own.

12:30 PM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger Joel said...

Sid: Just a note that I have been listening all week.

Do give her the option of earning the book back for herself. Some work at minimum wage. She loses, she gains back at a cost.

Do examine yourself, as well. Can you do something to open the channels so that she isn't afraid to ask? Is family therapy in order? This isn't taking blame, it's examining the whole machine which includes you and making adjustments all around so that this doesn't happen again.

7:20 PM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger Anonymous Mom said...

i like your last idea, sid - to tell her she has to earn the money to buy the book. donating the book, while i understand your motivation, may be construed by your daughter as retaliatory rather "this is what trust means" - you know?

1:46 PM, July 14, 2007  
Blogger nadcesca said...

I also like the idea of making her work for the book and any other stuff she wants that is not primary (meaning food, basic clothes). That will teach her a valuable lesson of what you get in life is not free you have to work and earn them. Hugs and good luck with your decision.

1:19 PM, July 16, 2007  

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