Inappropriate punishment?

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-03-2004
Inappropriate punishment?
Wed, 01-15-2014 - 12:28pm

Dear Moms,

I’m Kaylie and I’m 14.  Today when I got home from school, my mom took away my phone and laptop privileges for 5 days because of a bad test grade.  Over winter break I had to study for a map test.  Being as forgetful and I am, I forgot about it until Sunday.  I put it off until the night before, which I shouldn’t have.  I have done this a lot but don’t think it should affect my mom as much as it does.  As long as I do the work well, it doesn’t matter the time I do it.  But I am one of those kids who does not believe that school should be my very first and only priority.  I think experiencing high school and having fun is more important that getting superb grades.  I do think getting good grades is important.  I do get decent grades (mostly B’s and the occasional A or C).  Anyway, I got a D on the test.  I could have studied more but I have a solid B is that class and the quiz only affected my grade by a few (less than 2) percent.  Now, I am not angry because my mom took away my phone, I am more angry because I believe that it was my choice and my future.  I do understand that that I could have done a lot better, but taking away my phone would make me angry and less motivated to do my work in a timely and good quality fashion.  I think she should have chosen a more effective and beneficial consequence, such as being grounded so I would stay home and focus on work not friends and making sure every night I finished my work with quality and really knew the material.  I believe her reasoning for taking my phone is to make herself feel better, not to fix the problem.  I understand she want to feel like it is working, but I know how I feel and I know I’m more irritated than wanting to up my grade.  She has taken away my phone many times before but it never solves a problem but creates a bigger one.  Please let me know if this was an appropriate consequence.  I think it should solve a problem , not create one but still make me regretful like a punishment should.  Please let me know your view on this.

Thank you.

P.S.  I am a good kid involved in dance and community service clubs.  


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-03-2004
Mon, 01-20-2014 - 12:20pm

This is Kaylie's mom.  I was out of town for a few days and came back to several responses. This is to everyone who responded, not just Sabrtooth.  Thank you very much.  AFTER I told Kaylie she could ask for your opinions, I did pause for a minute wondering if it was a good idea.  But, it turned out fine.  I really appreciate your thoughtful responses.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 9:00pm

I have to say, the very fact that the parent resorted to this speaks volumes, and they aren't good volumes.  When a child kicks back about a punishment by saying, "Nobody ELSE gets punished for this, or like this", a normal parental response goes something like "I don't CARE what anybody else does.  I am the parent.  *I* make the rules in this house."  Period. End of discussion.

You, the parent, should not indulge your child in this fashion.   You should not stoop to "proving" that other kids are punished for laziness that results in poor grades, or are punished by loss of privledge and possessions.  Your child doesn't have to LIKE your rules, but she needs to respect them.  She needs to shut up, and suck up.  This kind of discussion only exacerbates her belief that SHE has a say in whether or not she is  disciplined, and what the nature of that discipline should be.  You need to find your spine, and when you put your foot down, KEEP it down.  Have the strength of your convictions, or get some counseling to help you get control of this child. 

Avatar for turtletime
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 8:12pm

Keeping a teenager home does little when the distraction of texting and facebook is at their fingertips. I know, teenagers truly believe they are expert multi-taskers and can do homework and text at the same time. Nope. Studies don't support that. Personal experience doesn't support that either. Obviously, phone interaction is far more important to you than personal interaction and so, phone interaction is likely the bigger overall distraction. Besides, it's very difficult to ground kids these days, They have commitments and it's not always fair to the others involved for you to be missing. 

You're 14 and 14-year-olds never want to hear it but deciding that grades aren't a priority is a mistake. My daughter had one bad year in high school (she was 14 as well) where she went from all A's to B's and C's. She was angry. She wouldn't do all the work... thought it was pointless. She even had some valid points but she was also texting in the middle of the night, wasting time and procrastinating. We took away her phone and her computer just to keep her focused enough to not drop to "D's." One year dropped her overall GPA to a 3.4 and she's been fighting every second since to bring that GPA up. 3 semesters of perfect grades, additional summer classes to give her more "A's" to input and she is still looking at only a 3.7 unweighted GPA. Her top 5 college choices will likely reject her because that 3.7 puts her in the lowely 25th percentile of admitted students. She's not eligible for the larger merit scholarships at the more attainable schools because most want a 3.8 or higher. Without the money, she might be stuck at the local state college living at home instead of in a dorm 2000 miles from home experiencing real freedom. She's got stellar test scores but sadly they don't make up for C's in geometry almost 3 years ago. She's heart-broken over it and so regrets Sophomore year. Was she pissed that we took her phone away for a time? You bet. She was furious. Is she still fuming over it? Nope. She understands now and is actually grateful that we didn't let her totally crash and burn that year.

This is not your parent's fault. It's yours. You aren't doing the work. You have admitted that school is not a priority. Seriously, you expect your parents to respect that? If you want your phone back. Do the work. Do it on time. Do it well. Get your grades up. Deserve a phone. Simple as that. Believe it or not, lots of kids manage to have fun and do great in high school.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 1:25pm

Hi Kaylie,

No, I don't think the punishment you received was too harsh. Your mom gave it to you because she felt you were giving your other interests higher priority than your school work. (You actually agree that this is true, since you say you don't think school should be your top priority.) But your mom doesn't want this to be the case. She wants to help you see that school should be your top priority. Not just your grades, but learning. You have no idea (and neither does she) how something you learn today will affect your future. She just wants you to be prepared and to take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way today.

I think it's because you're a good kid that she wants to work with you, to continue to help you develop into the adult you were meant to be. If you were the type of kid who gets detention for smoking weed or cheating, she would be looking at you totally differently. But because you are a responsible, respectful teen, she sees your potential, not your flaws, and wants to strengthen you where you are weak. This is her job. She'd be a bad mother if she didn't do this, and I think you know it.

You don't have to agree with her. You don't even have to study more or make straight As. But you should recognize that the person who knows and loves you best in the world thinks you are capable of it, so that's why she is disciplining you.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 12:24pm

I didn't expect my kids to be perfect, I expected them to do the best that they could. If they weren't meeting that potential then we had to look at why, and figure out what to do about it. And I tried to use logical or natural consequences whenever possible. So if use of the phone and computer contributed to the poor grades (time that could have been spent studying was instead spent talking, texting, on FB, etc) then removing the devices for a few days is logical. If it was watching TV, then no TV privleges would be appropriate. And sometimes it had to be a punishment, which would then be whatever was most important to the teen so I really got their attention. You didn't tell us why your mom chose to take away the electronics instead of some other punishment, but based on how upset you are, my guess is that she knew that you would feel that punishment more than something else. Since you don't seem to think being grounded is too bad, that punishment probably wouldn't have much impact on you.

You're trying to convince us/your mom with logical arguments like how your grade dropped only a small percent by this one bad grade. But you're also telling us how you know you are irresponsible---you are forgetful and you procrastinate, and when thwarted you want revenge instead of resolution (that's more about maturity)---but nothing about how you intend to resolve that. Parents are always looking for signs of maturity in their teens. A teen who shows herself to be mature and thoughtful and responsible is worthy of more privleges. One of the signs of responsibility and maturity is doing what you know you ought to do, even when you don't feel like it. Another is figuring out ways to resolve your problems---like time management issues. First you try to figure it out on your own and if you cannot, then you ask for help.

Most parents don't dole out punishments to make themselves feel better. We want our kids to be happy, and we want our life and yours to run smoothly. Having to manage consequences to a teen is work for a parent and can be a real PITA, and hearing a whining teen is no fun either. So don't think your mom is getting some secret thrill out of this.

The others have already mentioned your attitude towards school vs fun, and how that can affect your future so I won't go there.

The good thing is that you and your mom are engaged in discussion about these issues. You two could come up with some reasonable expectations for your grades and behavior and some consequences for when you don't meet expectations, so you know what to expect and you can make an informed choice before you act. Understand that all of this parenting is an attempt to prepare you for real life. Having priorities misordered, blowing off assignments, etc can get you fired from a job---which obviously could have a serious impact on your living situation. High school is like training wheels on a bike, you're going through the motions and there are some pitfalls but there is also a safety net. You learn how to balance now so that when you're on your own you don't fall.

Good luck, I hope that you and your mom can come to some agreement.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 11:02am

You seem to me to have a very cavalier attitude toward school and responsibility and maybe it's frustrating your mom.  (seriously, did you expect a board of moms to take the kid's side unless she made some kind of crazy punishment?  I don't think the punishment was particularly harsh and maybe she thinks that the annoyance of not having a phone will make you think twice the next time.  Of course school should be your first priority--what do you think should be?  watching TV?  gossiping with your friends?  What you do in high school will have a profound effect on your future, since your grades will determine what college you get into, whether you get scholarships, etc.  Believe me, you can still get good grades and have fun.  I have a 24 yr old DD (who is now a nurse) who graduated in the top 10% of her class--she was also on the track team, social committee, National Honor Society, worked part time, had a lot of friends and was always going out.  she just managed to fit in her homework and studying.  I also have a son who is a senior.  right now he's not doing that well in one class--AP Calculus, which I kind of expected.  Math has never been his best subject and I don't think he should have taken that AP class but he wanted a challenge.  It's not like he is getting a lower grade because he's not doing the work.  He also has 2 other AP classes and 2 Honors sciences.  He is taking more classes than he has to just because he likes learning.  Oh yes and he has already been admitted to his first choice college so he doesn't have the anxiety a lot of kids will be having about worring if he will get into college.  Maybe you can work out with your mom a way that you can become more organized so that you won't forget your assignments til the last minute.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 10:59am
That was always my philosophy, my daughter put enough pressure on herself and when she got less than an A grade, she did herself enough punishment, I didn't need to do any. But I also always made it known to her that while I wanted her to work her hardest, I knew there were times she would not get the best grades, and as long as I knew she was studying and working hard on it, she wasn't going to get in trouble for a bad grade, but if I saw a complete lack of thought or care for it, or effort on her part, that's when privileges started being taken away and more measures to ensure grades were her primary focus were put into place.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-1999
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 10:20am

I have always been of the mindset that one failed test, does not make a failure. That said, with my children the first poor grade is discussed and a strategy is put In place to prevent future problems. Should the problem continue, then privileges are revoked. Those include phone, computer, and driving, I usually take away what is most important to the child. 

The simple solution is to study, work to the best of your ability. If your mom saw you put forth an effort, you probably would. Not have lost the phone.  Trust me,parents don't had out consequences to "make ourselves feel better"  We have a lot more important things to do. 

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Thu, 01-16-2014 - 8:37am

I'm replying to myself on this one.  I do remember 'back in the day' that I was a perfectionist and very determined to keep my grades up.  But I am human and I did get an occasional D on a test (in college too).  In my case this was not due to lack of studying or understanding; just getting thrown a curve during a test.  This is ok.  To expect perfection 100% of the time to me is unreasonable, and if you can bring the grade back up to what is expected, I am still of the impression it was ok to falter on one test.  You might want to come to an agreement with Mom on what could happen then the NEXT time this may happen so that you're both ok with the consequences (sit down and come up with an agreed-to outcome).  Good luck.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Wed, 01-15-2014 - 10:52pm

Good for you mom in letting your DD get the thoughts of other mothers. 

A well written letter.

Kaylie, when you get to be a mother of a teen in a few decades, you will understand these type things much better. 

One of the things that parents learn about teenagers is that “deprivation of privileges” is much more effective than any other type of punishment.  And contrary to corporal punishment (spankings), “deprivation of privileges” is less painful on the parents--almost painless for a parent. LOL (Laughing out loud)

Seriously, spanking or switching a child is truly more painful for the parent than the child. On a very very FEW occasions, when our girls were really young, hubby and I did switch our girls for things like not staying at our side while shopping so that they would not get abducted by a pervert, not holding our hand in the parking lot so that they did not become road kill, keep hands off the stove top, etcetera. 

By eight, nine, and ten our girls had advanced to the age where “deprivation of privileges” began to be very effective.  They like movies, six flags, and the waterpark; so we used missing those to make a point and modify their behavior when necessary. 

My guess is that your mother knows how important the phone is to you and that she is using that to make points to you FOR YOUR BENEFIT.  And, to me, five days does not seem like too much of a punishment.

When you start driving in a few years, you will learn that the state uses this same formula in correcting our driving practices.  The reason that we don’t park even half an inch on the blue handicap lines at the mall is the $400 ticket that the city issues,  the reason that we don’t speed is that $200 plus fine.  Those fines deprive us of the privilege of spending the money elsewhere on things we would like to do.  VERY EFFECTIVE!!!

Another guess of mine is that you could and probably should be doing better than a B average.  You know it, she knows it, you know she knows it, and SHE KNOWS THAT YOU KNOW SHE KNOWS IT.  LOL

What you and maybe mom may not know is that the difference between a B and an A is generally only !0% or 15% more time on homework. However, your social life may be coming between you and that extra ten or fifteen percent.   When you wait to the last minute you often run out of time to do a better job.  It’s just as easy to do it first than last.  Mom is trying to change that “bad habit.”   The reason that it is BAD is that it deprives you of doing your best.  I assure you that if a B average was the best you were reasonably capable of, MOM WOULD HAVE NO BEEF WITH YOUR GRADE. 

In a few years you will be going to college.  You need to be developing your study skills for then as the competition gets more keen after high school when generally speaking only the upper half continue on.  Those B students become C students, and grad school gets even more competitive. 

My guess is that you can do better in school and still have a good time in high school.  You just need to find the balance and make some priorities that come before the fun time.

All the best to you and your parents.    

PS: Kaylie this will come as a complete shock, but your parents spend all their waking ours trying to make your life better.  LUCKY YOU!!!!