Child Discipline – The Overhand Arm Clap Option

Children constantly need to have the world in which they live defined for them. They do this through exploration of the limits. Some children are more daring than others but they all do it. It’s our belief that in order to raise children that will be realistic and functional adults, they need to experience the consequences that come with bad decisions.

Consequences…sigh. I certainly have to deal with consequences from my own bad decisions. Why would I let my children off of the hook for theirs? I’d be lying to them. They’d be raised in a world where they are protected from bad decisions and in turn, would be completely surprised as an adult to realize that life can be a lot harder on you than you were led to believe.

We use many different forms of child discipline. To us, the punishment needs to fit the crime. Normally, we offer warnings first, time outs second, spankings third, with numerous other variations thereof depending on a specific child’s recent decisions. Toys can be taken away and privileges revoked. We make sure that they all understand it is completely within their own power to control their consequences. Don’t want to have consequences for pissing Dad off? Don’t piss Dad off then.

Recently, we’ve been trying a new form of discipline and so far over the last 4 days, it’s working fantastically.

For years, I haven’t wanted to use exercise as a form of punishment. I want all of the kids to love exercise and they do. We never ask them to come with us but when we go running, they all holler out that they are going to run laps with us. After the run, they come over to the grass to do some more calisthenics with us and to stretch. It’s amazing how well these youngsters can do push-ups!

5 days ago, my wife brought up the topic of physical training again as a form of punishment. I agreed that we could try it as long as it’s an exercise that we don’t perform when we work out. Also, it needed to suck. I found myself delving back to my days in the Army and visualized the exercises that sucked the most. If you aren’t former military, you probably aren’t aware that there are limitless options for exercises that just plain suck. They don’t even really do anything for you physically other than suck. I think my wife saw the gleam in my eye…

We’ve settled on the overhand clap. Why? Because it’s simple, it hurts (that’s the point of consequences), it strengthens your shoulders and mental fortitude, and a kid has no problem counting while doing them. This has the additional effect of helping the younger kids learn to count better. The number of 4 count overhand claps that a child must do is determined by age.

The guy in this video does some overhand claps.

This approach to discipline has both made it much more fun for me but at the same time it’s teaching our kids, strengthening their body and minds, and best of all, it’s working.

Here’s an example of how we use it:

There are certain responsibilities our children have since they are part of the household. Among them, they need to clean up their sleeping area when they wake, change out of their jammies, and keep the volume to a minimum since we are on a boat and not a football field. If Annabelle decides not to clean up her sleeping area and change out of her jammies, that’s two infractions. Each infraction earns her 4o 4-count overhand claps. She doesn’t get a break in between so she needs to do 80 total without allowing her hands to go lower than horizontal to the ground. She’s allowed to take a break with her arms horizontal and straight but she’s already figured out that she’s just better off knocking them all out without stopping.

This has made things so much easy for my wife and I. Instead of having to babysit how long a toy has been confiscated or dealing with the un-fun practice of spanking, we just tell the kids to knock out their overhand claps and stay in the general vicinity to make sure they aren’t cheating.

If you intend to incorporate some sort of physical training as punishment, I’d suggest you pick a really crappy military exercise. Don’t choose something like push-ups. Push-ups are a great exercise and one of the top three to perform regularly to maintain upper body strength. You don’t want to discourage them from push-ups or any other great exercise.

This recent test has completely changed my outlook on using physical training as a form of punishment for children. I invite you to try it as a form of consequence and to share any ideas or experiences you might have it.



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