Writing lines

When your kid is in early primary school, and they are still learning to write and spell, and they hate sitting still while other kids are doing fun stuff, then I have found the best consequence of unwanted behaviour is writing lines, a bit old school but it seems to work.

(1) It is a well-defined task so they know what they have to do to get away from me and back to what they want to do.

(2) It results in improved handwriting and spelling (it really does).

(3) There’s no threat of physical violence.

(4) Non-compliance just means more lines.

(5) They hate it so much it is an effective deterrent.

(6) Time out in their room just results in playing or reading.  Time out in a corner just results in other forms of disruption.

A typical line might be ‘I will not use my fists to communicate with my brother.’  Sometimes the lines serve to amuse us — ‘I ken there are times I should shut my big fat gob’ was inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men.

Clearly it only works if they eventually knuckle down and do the lines.  But then all consequences are like that.

A minor rant: We’ve used various techniques from various books and they all have the same problem — they work on kids who are well enough behaved to submit to the consequences (we avoid the word ‘punishment’).  Time out does not work on a kid who won’t stay there.  You spend all your time trying to keep them in place and then have to have a second-order set of consequences for not engaging with the first set.

Conclusion – Darren’s Law of Parenting Books: Parenting books for dealing with bad behaviour only work on kids that aren’t really all that bad anyway.

So just make ’em write lines and help their literacy and behaviour all at once.


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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