The Problem with Writing as a Punishment

When your kids misbehave, what punishments do you use? I’m guessing that you don’t punish them with ice cream or a new toy. You probably don’t offer to bake cupcakes with them or have a family movie night. That wouldn’t make any sense, would it? I mean, why in the world would you reward bad behavior with something fun? When our kids make poor choices, we parents hand down punishments or consequences that we hope will cause our children to reflect on what they’ve done, that might lead them to remedy their wrongs, that will improve the chances of them making a better choice next time. 

Sometimes well-intentioned parents try to correct laziness or transgressions with writing assignments. Whether it’s the classic “I will not…” sentence copied over and over, spelling words copied many times beyond any real learning purpose, or an apologetic reflection letter, I’d like to encourage you to reconsider using writing as a punishment.

The thing is that if you use writing as a punishment, all writing assignments will feel like punishment to your child. And that’s not what writing should feel like. It should feel yummy like ice cream, stimulating like a new toy, challenging like baking, and fun like family movie night. Kids are smart. They know that if we use something as a punishment, it must be because it’s something we find distasteful. If writing is used as a punishment, without ever uttering the words, we are teaching children that writing is undesirable, that’s it’s something to be avoided.

I’m no parenting expert. I’m bumbling through this thing just like we all are. I do know, though, that if we want our kids to feel good about writing and feel good about themselves about writers, we have to leave writing out of the discipline mix and choose some other consequence that will get everyone back on the right path.       

We tend to do unto our children what was done unto us, but I think that most of us in the homeschooling community would agree that just because something has always been done, it isn’t necessarily for the best. Let’s leave writing as punishment where it belongs – in the past.