What is the worst punishment you have received from your parents, but taught you a valuable lesson? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
My parents do not believe in punishments. I have never been grounded, or had my phone taken away, or had to do extra chores. I've never been spanked. Yet, I'd say my parents managed to raise respectful, disciplined children. My mom believes in the power of natural consequences.
My freshman year of high school, I posted a Facebook status about one of my teachers because she wouldn't let me turn in some of my makeup work. It wasn't an awful status, but it wasn't nice. When I came by that teacher's room early the next morning, she informed me that she had seen the status and that it was disrespectful. She talked me through why what I had said was incorrect, and why she was unhappy with it. She also told me that she had called my mom about the incident.
I sat outside of the school and cried for a solid twenty minutes because I had never been in trouble before, but I knew I was this time. My mom called me before class, and told me she was taking me out for ice cream after school. No reprimand. No torrent of abuses. Just ice cream. And a talk.
That was somehow the most terrifying thing she could have said. A talk. I got in the car after school and my stomach was filled with dread. Ice cream didn't even sound good. Okay, it did sound good, but that didn't make me any less nervous.
My mom casually asked about my day, about my classes. She didn't seem upset or particularly panicked. It seemed like we were just going for ice cream. We got there and ordered our desserts, and she started. She explained to me that when I say something mean about someone else, that has a negative effect on others and can lead to repercussions for me. She explained to me that every action has a consequence, that everything you say can be used against you. That I need to know my audience, and that complaining to my friends is different than posting things online, and that posting things online about others is not a nice thing to do. That she expected this to be a learning opportunity for me, and that it would never happen again because now I've seen how unpleasant it feels to be called out for what I say.
She didn't yell and scream and throw a fit. She didn't hit me or deprive me. She reminded me that everything I do has its own consequence, and that in and of itself is the punishment. We never spoke of it again, and nothing like it ever happened again. That was my mom's worst, yet most valuable, punishment.
I learned that you can teach your child a far greater lesson by explaining their mistakes than by arbitrarily punishing them. That when you create a relationship based on respect, your words will have a far greater impact than any punishment could. That showing respect is the only way of teaching respect. My parents didn't do everything right, but the way they disciplined me was their greatest act.
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