Punishment diaries

Some parents find it useful to keep a written record of their children's punishments. This idea is not new; punishment books have been used at schools, reformatories and similar institutions for at least 150 years (see some examples here and here). This page, which was suggested by a reader of this website, describes an adaption of the punishment journal concept for use in the home.

A punishment diary can be helpful for the parents:

  • to keep track of their child's punishments
  • to evaluate the effectiveness of past punishments
  • to get feedback from the child about his/her view of the offense and the punishment
  • to add an extra element of ritual to the punishments, adding to their effectiveness
It can also be helpful for the child:
  • to protect him/her from excessive or unfair punishments
  • to serve as a reminder, helping to avoid repetitions of the offenses
  • to let the parents know his/her thoughts on the fairness of the punishment (sometimes these things are easier to write down)

On the adverse side, maintaining a punishment diary is not only time-consuming but also introduces an element of formality which may be felt inappropriate for home use. But if you feel comfortable with this concept, here are some recommendations for you.

Entries in the diary can contain the following data (feel free to modify this list):

  1. the date
  2. the reason for the punishment (the offense)
  3. was it a first time or repeated offense?
  4. the punishment given. If the child was given a choice, list all options and specify which one was chosen
  5. extra punishment, if any (e.g. for disobedience during the punishment)
  6. comments by the child (was the punishment fair/unfair? too hard? etc.)
  7. additional comments by the parent, if necessary
Perhaps the most important column is the child's comments. Does he/she think the parent overreacted? Would he/she punish his/her own child for doing the same thing? The same way? Is he/she sorry for what he/she did?

Due to its confidential contents the punishment diary should be kept very private so that nobody except the parents and the child will have access to it. A good solution is to use one of those diaries that are lockable with a key. If it comes with a double key, one key can be kept by the parents and one by the child. If you have more than one child, use a different diary for each one. When the child reaches adulthood (or some other agreed age) and the diary is no longer needed, it should be given to him/her so that he/she can keep it or throw it away.

After it has been introduced and explained to the child, the diary should be used consistently for all punishments given. Not only spankings but also time-outs, extra chores, writing lines, groundings, no TV, allowance cuts, etc. should go into it. The entries should either be written by the child, or together, or the parent can write the first part and let the child complete his/her part. It is best to write the entries directly after the punishment has been completed and the child has been fully forgiven.

The reader who suggested this page wrote about her experiences after introducing the diary to her teenaged daughter, "The first time we used it I talked to her for a long time about why I think spanking is important, especially why I think it is important for older girls since most of her friends aren't spanked any more, and then why I thought the diary was a good idea, and I think it took her a little to get used to it but she really uses it now as a way to communicate with me, apologising for something or else to say she didn't understand why a punishment was as strict as it was. In that case I know I have to explain better to her in future. I think that brings us closer together."

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Last update: May-09-2003