Specifically punishing a child.
All kids are different and so the same approach that works with one child may not always work with the next. However, all kids understand consistency. I fully believe that once you find a punishment stick to it. Be consistent. Follow through.
There are always exceptions the rule. When taking individual kids into consideration you must also consider any medical issues the child may have that may hinder the punishment.
I'm going to be very specific in my example. This is a real example, the illness is real, the situation is real, the punishment is real. No names to protect the innocent.
The illness is question is known as Neurofibromatosis type 1. In short NF1 is a genetic disorder, often caused by a mutation of a gene on chromosome number 17. Cognitive and learning disabilities can occur with NF1. The most common of the cognitive issues is with perception. Thus a person with NF1 may do things that may seem odd to the rest of us. They may, for example, when asked to clean up after dinner put not only the leftovers in the bin but also all cutlery and crockery used during the meal.
Now say you have a teenage girl who suffers from NF1. She often leaves plates in her bedroom, or places them in her washing hamper. It makes sense to her to place the dirty dishes there. After all, that's where dirty things go. For any normal teenager, this behaviour would be punished. Said teen would be made to clean up after themselves, and/or be grounded. Sounds fair. I have recently come across a woman who feels the best way to deal with this issue is not to aid her daughter in returning the dishes to the kitchen but to fine her a small amount of money per dish. She feels that her child plays on the NF1 and should pay for all mistakes she makes. Like replacing any dishes that may get thrown out.
To me, this just seems cruel. Surely there is a better way to deal with this. She even says that she has tried to punish these sort of things before and her daughter has gotten so depressed about failing to change her behaviour that she has ended up in counselling!
Yes, as parents it is our job to teach our children right from wrong, to punish bad behaviour and reward good, but its not always that black and white. There are many many shades of grey. I fully think that until this woman can see that and ask for help with her child she will continue to set her child up for more failure. Sadly, I know that this poor young lass has had it tough. Her mother has previously kicked her out of the house for drinking. I always thought that when you had kids you took the bad with the good.