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Topic : 08/10 Wrongful Punishment

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Created on : Friday, April 13, 2007, 03:12:42 pm
Author : DrPhilBoard1
(Original Air Date: 04/18/07) Fistfights in the living room, black eyes, stitches, a father punching a 17-year-old, a mother wrestling a 15-year-old to the floor … What do you do when you have no control over your teenager? Parents face off against teens in what Dr. Phil calls “one of the most disgusting displays of bad behavior on both sides that I have seen in years.” Brenda and Jim are constantly at war with Brenda’s three sons, Koltin, 17; and twins Austin and Dustin, 15. They say the teens have punched holes in the walls, physically attacked their stepfather and left home for days at a time! Brenda and Jim disagree on how to discipline their out-of-control teens and are even headed toward divorce because of it. How can they save the boys and their marriage? Then, meet a judge who believes creative punishments have the most impact. Judge Cicconetti doles out punishments that cause embarrassment and teach a lesson, such as making a teenager who stole a pornographic video sit blindfolded outside the store with a sign that reads “See no evil.” Opponents say creative punishments are abusive and cause more harm than good. What does Dr. Phil think? Join the discussion.

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April 14, 2007, 5:58 pm CDT

facing off against teens and their father

I think  creative punisment is a great idea. Whatever it takes to make these kids wake up.  I have 4 stepsons that drive me up the wall.  My husband will not listen to my advise on punishing them but his ways are not effective. We have only been married for a year and 2 months and it has been miserable because of his kids. I too have considered divorce allready.  What do you do with 4 kids who lie to their father and blame me for their terrible attitudes and behaviors and he always believes them?

April 15, 2007, 12:07 am CDT

The "look"

Whatever happened to the "look of death" from mom or dad that would squash all nonsense right in the bud???


I'm pretty easygoing with my kids and occasionally they push it a bit.  For instance, I'll tell them to do something and they'll putter around, try to distract me and make me forget, or joke around about other things.  I will eventually lose my patience and then they get "the look" - which definitely lights a fire under their butts, because they know once they get "the look" that I am dangerously close to the screaming irrational stage and they surely don't want to be the target of it!


I never wanted to spank my kids so I've spent a good bit of time thinking up "creative punishments" and have a few no-fail ones that strike fear in their hearts.  I have 3 daughters so this probably wouldn't be as effective with sons, but for the worst of the worst behavior or actions I threaten to shave their heads bald.  And just to make sure they knew I meant business, every now and then when they'd push me, I'd grab the scissors and snip off some hair.


The key is to be a little crazy and unpredictable!  Do something really outrageous every now and then, because I can tell you that even kids who are not easily intimidated will back down from a crazy person --- you just never know what they'll do! ;-)



April 15, 2007, 6:12 am CDT

04/18 Wrongful Punishment

  after dealing with 3 teeneagers of my own, i can now understand why back in the old, old, days they were married off at such a young age!  i came from a family that had many issues. i was married at 16 and am still married to the same man.  so when my children became teenagers it was very difficult for me to understand them.  i don't drink, i don't do drugs, and i was a nerd in school.  so, yes i used the creative punishment tactics, because i didn't want them disciplined as i was at  home.  one of my children approached me on day for a pair of new nike's, she said all the kids at this school wear them and that she needed them badly.  i let her know that when someone came up to her and told her feet hello, i would rush out and buy her a pair.

  i only have 1 son, God knows that is all  i could handle.  he was a clown at school, i was always getting calls to go to the school.  one day i woke up and dressed up like a clown, i had mismatched shoes, hair in weird pony tails, and my makeup all messed up.  he asked where  i was going, i said, " i'm going to take you to school today".  not like that he told me.  i said," if you can go to school and make me look like a fool, then i can go to school and make you look like a fool.  it didn't solve all his problems, but i didn't get any more calls about him being a clown, and making a fool of himself anymore.

 my son also went through the stage where he was smarter than anybody else at school, why should he do his work.  i made him make street signs that said will work for food.  told him it was my responsibility to make him a productive human being.  that worked for a little bit.

then came high school, he and his buddies got this bright idea that if they got themselves into the slow kids program they could wiz through highschool and not have to study.  2 of his friends got into this program, if vowed that my son was smart, and refused to have him tested.  for 4 years my son went to school and had fun.  failed, failed, failed.  i went to a meeting one day, and was told that i was hurting my son by not beleiving he had a learning disability.  so i left crying and agreed on the test.  my son has an above average IQ and no learning disabilities detected.  that is when i put it all on his shoulders.  let him know that the law states he can go to school until he is 22.,  that he would graduate.  he met with the counselors and at the end of his 5th year in highschool he graduated. 

i did feel like hitting him at times.  i discovered that sometimes the only way to see how bad his thinking was, was to argue with him.  you have to set limits on yourself, i had seen what beating kids could do from my childhood, i knew i didn't want to go there.  bubba, was diagnosed at a young age of having ADD, i thank the doctor for telling me not to put him on any drugs.  you have to be more patient, and keep telling them over and over and even make them practice thinking.  i am a writing mom.  i would make them write essays on things they did at the time to make them think of problems as a whole situation, not as a me situation.

my son thought i hated him, he would be upset at times just thinking that.  it took him a while to figure out that i didn't hate him, just his behavior. 

with the laws the way they are, and the knowledge todays young has, if we as parents don't get more creative in making our children think, we are doomed. 

to make my son clean his room i would tell him that we were having chicken fried steak for dinner in the morning and he had till supper time to get it cleaned or he wouldn't eat.  it got cleaned

i guess i better get off this, one day i'll write a book, my mom doesn't know how lucky she is that i was a pretty good kid.  she has told me many times that my son just needed a good beating, no he just needed a creative mom.

April 15, 2007, 7:43 am CDT

Creative Punishment

Time-outs are for sissies - try creative punishments instead

The Bottom Line The key to creative punishments is consistency and teamwork between the parents.

I hate having to "punish" my children. But sometimes they pull stunts that we cannot explain away or can change in any rational way.

We have very few rules in our household, but the ones we have are pretty much written in stone. It would take a really good defense by a child to tell my why he disrespected a sibling or an adult family member. The kids know this and, for the most part, abide by these rules.

However, my kids are neither angels nor saints and occasionally punishment is warranted.

We've read all the smart books, learned from our parents and have found out that what works best for us and the kids are creative punishments.

I understand creative punishments as everything that will teach the child why certain rules are enforced in our household. I do not want them to think about that he/she broke a rule. The child already knows that. What I want them to know is that there is a rule, it's there for a reason and things happen when they break it.

So here are few tricks I've learned over the past twenty years. Some worked, some didn't, but overall creative punishment works best for us.

Yes, we do time-outs. But we neither place the kid in a corner, nor do we simply put him in a chair. We place the chair in the same room the family is in, right in the middle, and then completely ignore the child for a certain time period, while we go on reading, coloring or playing games. Cruel? No, I don't agree with that.

Doing it this way teaches our children that if they don't stick to the rules, they can't join in the fun. The only time this did not work, was when our youngest simply fell asleep in the chair.

The one thing I absolutely can't stand is whining. If the children ask me if they can do or have something, I either say (and mean) "no", "maybe" or "yes". For me the case is closed after that.

Our oldest is the master whiner, or maybe I should say WAS the master whiner. There isn't anything she wouldn't have done to get her way. We listened to her complain, nag and whine a few times and told her that this would not work. Did she stop? Heck no, she turned the whining up a few notches, shed some crocodile tears (the ones she can turn on and off at will) and continued.

I was in the kitchen at the time and decided to fashion a "whining cap". I put a knot into each corner of a dishtowel, put it on her head and told her she had to wear it until she stopped whining. That we were on the way to a school function really didn't bother me. But it sure bothered her. She did not want her friends to see her with that thing on her head. And guess what, the whining stopped a mile down the road.

That whining cap got a bit of a workout, but for the most part it just did it's job as a dishtowel. It was way too embarassing for the kids to wear that thing. And while the middle child still did some whining, the experience of watching must have been enough for our little guy. He whines only long enough until we tell him to stop. The minute I go to the towel drawer, he stops for good.

Sometimes rule breaking turns into a battle of wills. I have learned to tell the child what her choices are once and maybe once more. That's it. If I know a battle of wills is coming I keep my mouth shut (for me that's very hard to do).

One iron-clad rule is seatbelt use in the car. This includes everyone in the vehicle, no matter how old they are and in what seat they sit. If I don't hear that "click" the car won't move. If I'm late so be it, but the belts come on and stay on. The oldest child was the "how far can I go to break the rule" tester. She and a friend decided to take their seatbelts of while I was taking them to ballet lessons. I pulled the car over as soon as it was safe and sat there. I told them once, told them twice and gave them the option of turning around and going back home (as soon as the belts were on of course) and waited but did not say anything else.

Then I waited some more. Thirty minutes later, the belts were on, the dance class was over and they had done all this for nothing, because we went straight back home.

Most "punishments" I dole out are meant to teach the child something about why we have those rules, not that it's wrong to break them. If I have to embarass the kids to get the point across I will do so without regret. But I will only use the "embarass the heck out of them" option when I know their sense of self-worth will not be diminished or destroyed by it.

When one of the kids missed the schoolbus several times without having any reason of doing so, I took him to school for one week and walked him into his sixth-grade classroom holding his hand like he was a toddler.

Of course he was questioned by his classmates and received quite a few comments from them. Since then he hasn't missed the bus at all.

There is a disclaimer to this: I knew that he was extremely well liked by his classmates, and his class was small (10 students total)and the principal and teachers of his school also used some sort of creative punishment. If he would not have had classmates and teachers like this I would not have done that.

By the way, this was a public, not a private school.

No matter how embarassing the punishment, after it's over we talk about it as a family. We also try to be very consistent and never, ever argue about the punishment between us (or at least not where the children can hear us).

We have, at times, send the child that was to be punished, to his or her room, so we could discuss which course the punishment should take. But we have never argued about it in front of the kids.

Sometimes, the whole family (minus the child to be punished) decides what form this punishment should take.

When one of our children was on a shopping trip with me, she decided to walk out with a small toy without paying for it. This is commonly known as shopllifting.

Once discovered, the child was sent to her room and we talked about it with the other kids. I am ashamed to say that they had some really cruel ideas about what she should have to do.

We finally decided that the best course of action would be to take her back to the store and have her apologize to everyone from the cashiers to the stockboys OVER THE STORE PA SYSTEM!

My husband called the store manager in the morning, explained what happened and what we planned to do. The manager agreed, but decided that we would only make her think this was going out over the PA system.

I have never seen this child so ashamed after it was over.

She also had to return the item, but "pay" it off, by taking several weeks worth of allowance to the local womens shelter. Every time she dropped off her payment, she had to tell the director why she was there.

Needless to say stealing has not been part of this childs life.

For us consistency is key. If a child breaks a rule, they will receive a punishment. They will know that this punishment is not necessary mainstream, but they will have to keep on guessing what is until they get it.

There is only one way to get out of a punishment. If the child has a very valid reason why he did what he did (i.e. "I broke the window to rescue the other kids because there was a fire in the house), we will discuss either a modification of the punishment or not giving it.

As far as I can remember this only has happened once, when our teenager made the switch from elementary to middle school. During orientation night the Principal kept on harping about the students having respect for the teachers. The man was a pompous horses behind if there ever was one.

After ten minutes of being lectured on respect for the teachers, my teenager stood up in a packed auditorium and asked it that meant that the teachers also need to show respect to the students.

I thought the principal would explode. He immediately went into a rant about how bad kids are nowadays (these are ten year olds) and that the teachers deserve the respect, but the kids are just brats and yada, yada, yada......

We have taught the kids to speak respectfully to adults, to not swear (they have to pay every time they do), but to also speak their mind.

After a family discussion, where it was determined that the teenager had only spoken his mind, without being disrespectful, it was decided not to give a punishment.

With punishments like these, my kids have learned to be responsible teenagers and adults and to think for themselves. Some of you might not agree how we go about punishing them and this might not work for everyone.

For us, creative punishment is a good solution to spankings (we don't, because we don't have to), regular time-outs and wanting to be our childs "friend". I am my childrens parent and advocate, if they want friends they have to look elsewhere.


*I didn't write this, this is what I found when I googled creative punishment, I agree with this man and what he says about this punishment. You have to teach the child a lesson but not harm them in such a way to cut off a girls hair, or beat your son up.

April 15, 2007, 11:31 am CDT

04/18 Wrongful Punishment

Quote From: housewife52

I remember that show. I do think that sometimes young people don't think about the consequences of what they do. I can also see those boys with sandwich boards with embarrassing lies about themselves. Surely it would make them realize more the effect it had on thier teacher. If I remember right they said that she was a lesbian? She was pretty much devastated and she didn't believe at the time that the boys realized the full effect of thier little "prank".That was why she was trying so hard to have something done about it. Seems like I remember DrPhil asking her if she really wanted one of the boys to have a record for the rest of his life? Creative punishment might have helped and then he wouldn't have had a record.
Exactly. The teen brain isn't done growing, it's not an adult brain. I think that this was a "prank" in their immature brains...even though it was more devastating than that. So that is exactly what I think a creative punishment, to really drive home empathy, would be so great in that situation. They would not only be punished, but learn something so valuable, learn about real empathy. Something that would make them better people for the rest of their lives.

It's sad how little empathy some people have, not just teens. Sometimes I think forcing one into the shoes of another is needed.

Of course that doesn't ALWAYS work. We can't rape rapists, or molest molesters....that is against the constitution. BUT we can apply creative punishments now and then, especially to teens.

Send a teen or a kid to a jail/prison/juvenile center they will be surrounded with punks and I think that environment would be more damaging than helpful. Not only to the kid, but to society later. Give the kid a real dose of empathy, and you have positive effect all around. (And I'm not talking about violence or something like that, just some kid who made a really bad choice.)
April 15, 2007, 2:58 pm CDT

04/18 Wrongful Punishment

I'm all for creative punishments.  Lets face it, when people were put in the stocks a couple hundred years ago, there was a lot less bad behavior.  I do feel that there is a limit to physical punishments, but to create a punishment that fits the behavior I feel is totally acceptable.  If you steal, whats wrong with being made to sit in front of the store holding a sign? If it embarrasses the offender, then oh well.  Maybe they will think twice before doing it a second time.  It also serves as a valuable lesson to other would be offenders.  Should a father punch his son/step-son? Absolutely not.  It is the parent's responsibility and duty to be a good example.  How can you beat a child and still teach no hitting? You can't.  Hypocrisy is the worst example you can teach your child.  Even an out of control child needs to be hugged often.  But if they do get into trouble with the authorities, etc. then find a way to get through to them in a way that makes an impact on them without actually impacting your fist on their face.  So, if there is a creative punishment that will do, so be it.
April 15, 2007, 3:23 pm CDT

04/18 Wrongful Punishment

Quote From: katherinem

I think  creative punisment is a great idea. Whatever it takes to make these kids wake up.  I have 4 stepsons that drive me up the wall.  My husband will not listen to my advise on punishing them but his ways are not effective. We have only been married for a year and 2 months and it has been miserable because of his kids. I too have considered divorce allready.  What do you do with 4 kids who lie to their father and blame me for their terrible attitudes and behaviors and he always believes them?

I think that you and your husband need to sit down and have a serious discussion.  You both need to figure out what you want and if the relationship is worth working for.  If he only wants to believe his sons, there isn't a whole lot you can do but kill 'em with kindness and keep doling out the rope, eventually, they'll hang themselves.  A person can only lie for so long before it becomes ridiculous, even to the parent that seems deaf, dumb and blind to the situation.  I've been married for 12yrs to my soul mate.  I was very lucky to meet my husband when he was 18 & I was 19.  We were married just three months later.  But in that time, we had talked about what we both wanted, how we saw child rearing and what was most important to us regarding kids and what mistakes we didn't want to make that we had seen our parents make.  That being said, my husband is one of eight children.  He is the 4th from the first set of four, then there's a 7yr gap and four more kids.  His little brother Mike is 10yrs younger then him and lied, lied, lied as a child and later a teen.  Their mother believed every word that came out of Michael's mouth.  I was shocked at what she could believe.  It seemed beyond belief.  When we were first married, we lived w/  my husbands parents and it was beyond traumatic.  Mike would say that Jay had hit him, the other three would say that Mike had lied, and then my mother in law would freak out on Jay and me.  It was bizarre.  While I gratefully was not married to her, as in your situation.  She did come to realize that he lied, and was appalled at all she had been willing to believe.  My point is this, there will come a point when even your seemingly gullible husband will have to wake up and smell the bad behavior.  It may require counseling for the family.  The boys are probably very unhappy about their dad moving on and remarrying.  That makes it doubly hard for you.  If you love him and are willing to stick it out, you really should give counseling a try.  There are anger and trust issues the boys need to work though and there are going to be trust issues for you & your husband. I really hope it works out for you. God bless.
April 15, 2007, 4:42 pm CDT

Nothing worked

My now 26 year old daughter started being a problem in fifth grade and progressively got worse.

It started with not applying herself at school, for which we had tutoring instead of myself or her step dad helping. Then it was sneaking out the bedroom window, lying about who she was with or where she was going. Put her in Catholic school, she did better that year in school but started smoking marijuana & was still lying. Through all of this she was in individual counseling, we did family counseling, I had her tested for ADD.  She stole jewelry and pawned it, she stole my debit card several times and used it. I filed charges and a result was court ordered in-home counseling, among other things. Her and several kids broke into a friends house while the family was on vacation and partied and trashed the place. She got probation. She was spanked a few times when younger and grounded when older, bedroom door removed, no phone or T.V. in bedroom (which I never believed in or allowed anyway). Nothing worked. Once my husband smacked her mouth for the way she was talking to me. It drew blood. I was mad at him, yet soooooo tired of her attitude. When she was about 15, my husband was on his way home from military duty one weekend when he found a marijuana roach in his jacket pocket. This was very serious as he would've been discharged from the military had they selected his car for a random search at the gate with the dogs and found this. She had a crappy attitude when confronted. Her punishment was to be a spanking but she started to fight with him. I finally stepped in to hold her while she got the spanking. She has had a very defiant attitude most of her life. She was an extremely talented softball, basketball, and volleyball player; however, her attitude kept her off the high school teams. She was worse after not making any of the teams. She started skipping school. I'd drive her myself, get to work and get a call from school saying she wasn't there. I contemplated quitting my job and staying home/at school with her but she was 17 by this time. I knew she was leaving when she turned 18 and didn't want to give up my job. She now tells people she was beat as a child & that her step dad locked her in the basement when I was home so he could beat her without me knowing. This simply did not happen. With some of her infractions, we let her choose either a spanking or grounding. She usually chose a spanking to get it over with. These were not lengthy or harsh spankings, just usually three swats to the behind. Well, at 26, she has two kids with two different fathers, she abuses prescription drugs and is an alcoholic (though she can go for weeks without drinking). My husband and myself have both apologized for our mistakes in raising her. We did the best we could, I read every book out there on parenting. I believe she uses her past as a crutch for her drug/alcohol abuse. Why do some kids who've lived in horrible circumstances turn out okay, but others who didn't, yet use it as an excuse, continue down a destructive path? I've called Child Protective Services and Probate Court (as instructed by CPS) to no avail. I already keep the oldest child about 95% of the time and have him in a Christian school. I worry the only reason he's allowed here so much is he is now old enough to tell on her. I only have the two year old about one night a week. My husband and I are both college graduates and never had kids together. He has one and I have one but we've been together since they were five (they're three months apart). I'm still at a loss for an explanation unless it's drugs.........and maybe always was. Oh, I even used to get her drug tested and it was positive on occasion.      

April 16, 2007, 12:02 am CDT


Just shows how important discipline and a healthy family environment is at an early age...Now they want to start enforcing rules and structure and it seems too late for these boys...It is good they have contacted Dr.Phil...but maybe they should have sought professional help sooner.  Creative punishment isn't beating up a mentally unstable teenager...I am sure it can be frustrating when they are out of control, but beating them up...come makes them believe it is okay to resort to physical violence...not giving them good life lessons on how to handle anger...Anger comes from frustration..they need to address what these teens are frustrated about and it seems only professionals can do this.
April 16, 2007, 7:52 pm CDT

04/18 Wrongful Punishment

Quote From: housewife52

But one thing I have to wonder about the situation with the 17 year old and his parents actually physically fighting. Somehow along the way our kids figured out that hitting mom and dad is not right. I remember with both of them,as toddlers, kicking me in the shins when they were mad. I just squatted down to thier level and simply told them that kicking mama is not o.k. I guess they got the message. (I'm not trying to say I was the world's greatest mom and had all the answers. Looking back, there are some things I would have done differently. But really all I can do is look forward.) But back to this family I think something must be terribly wrong when it gets to this point.

Re reading, yes I have to wonder myself how it got to that point, I mean I have a fifteen year old son, and a husband and they don't get physical when they argue. if it gets too heated, that's when I step in, and send them back to their corners ( its actually funny to see I'm 5'4 and 110lbs, Hubby is 6'4 and 250 son 5'11 and 140, and they scurry to their respective corners before I even get there hehe ), I don't do the whole Alpha Male thing very well.

But I do think a parent does have the right to protect themselves if there is a physical confrontation,even if it just means restraining the kid.  In Canada a parent has no recourse, your child harms you oh, well but heaven forbid you defend yourself then YOU go to jail for assault and domestic violence while the kid is given a "Poor thing " speech and a pat on the head.

Like I said, the boy calls the father outside, the onus is on the adult to walk away, but I do belive if the kid attacks, all bets are off , they do it because they CAN.

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