Children Writing Sentences for Punishment
Instead of always taking things away from your child as punishments, consider adding to the learning process by handing out a more literary type of discipline. Whether your child throws a tantrum when you tell her that she can't go to her friend's sleepover party or she is constantly slamming her bedroom door every time that she feels frustrated, a sentence-writing punishment can help her to better understand why her actions were unacceptable and think about the negative consequences to her misbehavior.
Before you go full force ahead with a decision to use sentence writing as your main form of discipline, keep in mind that not every professional feels it's the best way to go. The National Council of Teachers of English condemns the use of sentence writing as a form of punishment for children 1. While this condemnation largely reflects the NCTE's position on punitive writing, or punitive rote writing, in the school environment, it is also transferable to the home setting. Using this type of punishment may send your child the wrong message and make him think that writing is an arduous task.
Asking your child to write a sentence, or more, about what she did wrong can help her to think more critically about her behavior. Instead of just nodding her head when you tell her that she is misbehaving, or tearfully accepting a time-out or grounding, writing sentences about her actions means that she has to actually think about what she has done and how it effects her and those around her. For example, if your third grader pushes her little brother when she feels angry, writing a mini-essay on how her actions hurt her sibling can help her to reflect on her actions more than simply sending her to room and saying that she was "wrong."
Age and Developmental Level
Not every child can write the same types of sentences or think on a deeply critical level. Depending on your child's age and current state of development, she may have the ability to write more or less in-depth sentences. Additionally, some young children, such as preschoolers, don't have the skills yet to actually spell the words or form all of the letters necessary. According to the child development experts at PBS Parents, preschoolers can typically write some of the uppercase letters, and less of the lowercase ones 23. Don't expect that a sentence writing punishment will work well for a child of this age. On the other hand, older grade-school-aged kids can easily write a few sentences or a paragraph, while middle and high schoolers can craft their own essays.
Consequences and Praise
The pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website note that children in preschool and up are able to understand the concept of rules and consequences. Instead of making sentence writing into a purely negative consequence -- which may eventually result in your child having a distaste for writing or always attaching it to his misebehaviors -- you can use it as an opportunity to provide positive punishment. When your child thinks about what he has done and writes a fluent sentence, or sentences, you have the opportunity to verbally reward this educationally-oriented action. For example, instead of just saying, "Don't slam the door. It's driving me crazy," ask your child to write an essay about door slamming and comment, "I like how you explained why slamming the door doesn't help you to communicate your anger towards me."
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