Punishment Tents -- Would This Work for You?

Do you have a go-to punishment, the one you automatically reach for when your kid does something wrong? For me it's "Go to your room." I say this a dozen times a day. Though after reading the recent discussion on effective punishments in Advice for Moms, I'm questioning whether this is solving anything.

Like me, lots of moms also use "negative" punishments like time-outs, or taking away privileges, or yelling. But CafeMom halinbray uses a different approach.


She believes that most of the time when younger kids do something bad, it's not really bad but a part of the process of learning about themselves and trying to handle their feelings.

So when her 6 year old errs, she uses natural punishments and something called a "calm down tent," which is designed to put a positive slant on discipline.

"If they hit or break something, it's not because they are being mean or trying to hurt, it's because they are frustrated and unsure how to handle the problem," halinbray says. "These are skills they need to learn. By calming themselves down they are able to gain a skill most adults haven't even mastered."

This opened my eyes a bit. Here's the nuts and bolts of her approach:

  • If she doesn't pick up her toys, halinbray will do it but they will remain confiscated;
  • If she plays with her food, she can leave the table and be hungry, and if she asks for a snack later she will get her dinner back;
  • When she needs a time out for something, she is sent to a calm down tents in her room. The tent is filled with quiet activities like coloring, dolls, trucks etc. She's allowed to feel crabby or have a fit inside. She sometimes hangs out in there for hours, learning to handle her feelings and frustrations.
  • When she is ready, she and her daughter talk about the issue and pre-plan better ways to handle it next time.

One mom said this sounds all well and good, but does it really work? And does it fail to prepare them for what they can expect in real life?

halinbray says:

"Learning to solve your own problems in a healthy way is a great way to prepare them for life," she says. "Their boss won't put them into a time out for messing up, they will get fired."

Do you agree that most of the bad things your kid does aren't really bad but part of a learning experience, or do you have another opinion? Would this "positive" approach work with your children?

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