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There's no one right way to parent. Yet, some parents still manage to get it wrong.
Take the mom and dad in Australia who are considering canceling Christmas for their 10-year-old daughter, who used stolen money to buy candy. According to the Facebook page of a parenting blog, School Mum, the mother (who wisely wishes to remain anonymous), said her daughter was caught stealing money from the family for the second time in a month—all for the sake of buying lollipops. She was punished the first time by being made to repay her parents, and by forgoing some of her privileges. Now, though, they're at a loss.
"She doesn't have any devices, play computer games or watch much TV so we can't use this as a punishment. We can't stop her from going to her sports lessons (which she loves) as it will be letting the teams down. My husband feels we should give her no presents at all at Christmas."
Why not stop her from going to her sports lessons—not only will she feel the burn of missing out on something she loves, but letting her team down is an impactful way for her to understand how her actions affect others.
She could also be made to do some volunteer work on Christmas Day before opening any gifts, as giving her time to others with more meaningful needs besides candy may help put put her stealing habit in perspective.
It could be that the child really just needs some more sweetness in her life.
And what about the candy? Why not forbid her from eating lollipops and other sweets for a month? Wouldn't that be an eye for an eye? Or have her give out lollipops in a children's hospital?
Really, there are any number of punishments that would be an appropriate way for the girl to be made to feel remorseful for what she's done and grateful for what she has.
But taking away Christmas for one kid (while her siblings would be partaking in it) is cruel and unusual. Kids need to be kids, and occasions like birthdays and family celebrations should not be used as carrots for good behavior (ahem, Elf on the Shelf). They wouldn't be the first parents to take away Christmas for the kids, but as we teach our kids, two wrongs don't make a right.
Punishments should be used as deterrents, child psychologist Dr. Laura Markham told Yahoo Parenting. What these parents are considering, however, "doesn't address the root problem, because this child already knows stealing is a mistake, since she faced consequences before."
Banning her from Christmas will only make the girl act out, Markham said. They're essentially just telling her, "'I'm going to punish you with the worst thing I can think of.'" It's no different or better than the parents who make their children stand on a street holding a sign saying what they've done, which is otherwise known as public shaming, which is also known as a self-esteem killer.
If the girl doesn't have any devices, watch much TV or play computer games, maybe candy and dessert are also scarce in her home—and maybe that's why she's stealing money to buy lollipops. Maybe the girl needs a little more access to some treats, which her mom says she only has on occasion. And perhaps some additional downtime to relax would make her less likely to do what she must already know is wrong.
"It could be that the child really just needs some more sweetness in her life," Markham said.
As for the girl's parents, one of the School Mum's commentators offered some sage advice:
"RELAX. Life is so hard for our 'little people.' I remember being 10 and 'needing' a certain rubber to be like my peers. Well, these days it's all about the technology or TV series, who's got what and so on. If you have things as tightly controlled as your post seems then (you're) in for a bumpy ride. I by no means think this behaviour is OK and she needs punishment. BUT ask her why, find out who she is with when she spends the money, you may work out that her friends all get spending money for school and TV/computer access and the lollies might be her one grab at 'fitting in.'"