parents punishing their kids with reading?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

First, I'm not a parent. I don't know anything about parenting. I am only 22 years old, and can still be very immature at times, so I don't know if this opinion of mine really counts for anything. But I thought about this today through a long conversation with a friend.

We were talking about how some kids hate reading so much. How did they come to hate it? Why do they hate it?

Most of the time, the usual reason they have, is simply because they just don't enjoy it. They don't find it fun. This is pretty understandable, I think. But then there are the kids that hate books and reading, mainly because they are being taught to fear it - by their own parents or guardians.

Apparently, some parents use reading as a form of punishment. Let's say if the kids are too noisy or too loud, they're punished with an hour of reading. If they misbehave and disobey, they get sent to their rooms with a book. If they do something wrong, they're not allowed TV or toys - just books. The list of examples of scare tactics can go on and on.

I do not get this tactic to be honest. I feel like when you instill something in a negative way, it will become negative to the person. When a parent continuously uses reading as a threat or a punishment, the result would be obvious.

Again, I'm no parent and I really have no clue, but I was a child once after all. I was a child that was raised by parents and grandparents that promoted the act of reading - both as a hobby and as a form of learning. I would say if they didn't raise me that way, I wouldn't really be the reader that I am today.

So I guess as random as this post may seem to be, I would like to know your take on this. Do you know anyone that does this to their kids? Do you approve? How were you raised as a child, reading-wise? And if you're a parent yourself, what do you think of this? I'm very interested.


  1. I do think this a huge one. I have a 4 year old daughter and she loves to read. Sometimes I feel bad with even saying your only getting one book read tonight because of misbehaviour because I don't want anything negative around reading.

    It is the same for food, rewarding children with food is leading the way to obesity. (My opinion)

    I think it is easy when a parent loves to read, it makes it so much easier. Children want to be like parents so will pick up books faster.

  2. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I think I agree with you on this. I don't have children either, but growing my punishment was that my parents would take my books away and grew up loving to read, so it would make sense that the reverse would be true.

  3. I haven't seen it first hand, but I've seen a few shows where it happens a lot. I found it just baffling that this goes on. Doesn't show much common sense from the parent, that for sure. You're completely right. If you associate something as a form of punishment, that child is bound to see it as something negative. And hey, doesn't matter how old you are, or if you aren't a parent. You're opinion matters - just as much - like everyone else's. Great post Jillian.

  4. You are certainly entitled to an opinion on this! I have taught elementary school, but I'm not a parent. I've met parents who do not enjoy reading or are not proficient readers, and perhaps this plays into the use of reading as punishment. I think the challenge as a parent is to be positive about everything your child expresses an interest in, even if it's not something you yourself enjoy. For instance, I have zero interest in football, or robotics, but if my child expressed an interest in these, I hope I would choose to foster that interest.
    Thought-provoking post! :)

  5. When I was little, I could get grounded from TV, radio, and the telephone. But my mother never grounded me from reading. I liked that. Reading was free, smiled upon, and above punishment. It meant reading was always there for me.

    Also, if I was too sick to go to school then I was too sick for TV, radio, and telephone and had to stay in bed. She would go to the library, grab me a big stack of books, and bring them to me in bed. It was punishment, it was just the only thing that wasn't taken from me.

    My mother and father weren't readers but they always loved that I was and encouraged in me.

    That to me says allot. It means just because they didn't love it didn't mean they didn't see the value in it.

    I look back fondly at those long sick days in bed with books. Or those times I was grounded and spent days and days reading.

    So yah, I'm with you. Never use reading as punishment. Respect it. Encourage it.

    GREAT post.
    Sorry for my super long response.

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  7. Side note: There were no PCs back then. And now that I'm about to become a mom, I think I will use my mom's technique about reading.

  8. I definitely agree. I think that's horrible. I'll do everything I can to make my kids love reading when I have them. I was raised on books. When I was three I had those little Disney books-on-tape and I had them memorized I listened to them so much.

    Good post.

  9. I've never heard of this but if my parents had punished me by forcing me to read books then I would have been a very bad little girl. haha

  10. When I was a kid (even prior to age 14), my parents kept wanting to stop me from reading instead lol... because I would rather read than sleep even on a school night. Since I shared a bedroom, I used a torch to read under the blanket instead :)

    So I totally don't agree with punishment=go read books. If that was the case I'd have gotten into trouble more often :)

  11. That makes no sense to me! But I was raised to believe reading is fun. Whenever I was little my parents would read to my brother and me for 15 minutes before bed time. My mom's an avid reader, that's all she does in her free time, so you could say I was heavily influenced.

    But I agree with what you said, that some kids are taught that reading isn't fun.

  12. Marce - I think though that what you're doing is very effective! It's the exact opposite of the punishing with books... you're actually teaching your daughter that if she doesn't obey, she won't get her prize! :) For me, my grandparents used to award me with a book of my choice if I do well at school, so that would be my motivation.

    Kathy S - Yeah. I think if you use books at motivation to do well or to excel, it helps a lot!

    Aly - Thanks for your input!

    Carrie - I myself am a tutor, not really a teacher, but have met many different types of parents as well. I think that it would be so much more effective if parents used their kids' hobbies/choices as motivation to excel, instead of punishment when they fail!

    Juju - Aww being sick has its perks, doesn't it? ;) That's a very sweet story.

    Laura Ashlee - Wow. Those Disney books-on-tape sure do bring back memories, don't they? Ahh.. when I become a parent, I would definitely encourage them as well.

    Lesa - Haha. Yeah. I would be totally different!

    Christa - Hahaha yeah I used to get in trouble because of reading late at night too!

    Kate - I think its okay for kids to NOT like reading, but to be threatened with books and the act of reading is horrible.

  13. I have never heard of this, but it's crazy to me.

    I have 3 kids. They get punished by no TV (or no fave show), no Wii on the weekends (only time can play it), or by being sent to bed (more as a way to calm down, it's usually 5/10 min).

    Or for my "motivationally challenged" one, I make him write sentences. Amount depends on the offense. This was a last resort. We had a bad few months last year. After a few days of no change in attitude, I started tacking on five more each day. We were up to 60. He finally caught on. And his behavior improved remarkably.

    Unless they did something really bad, they are never not allowed to play outside, play Legos, etc. And I would never punish them by not allowing them read or forcing them to read. I don't think I would even take away a "fun" book and give them a hard book.

    They really love books now.

    And you have a right to say how you feel. Even if I disagreed with you, I wouldn't be bothered or in a huff because you stated it respectfully and not attacking anyone.


  14. @Carrie, absolutely right - you encouraged and support your kids interests! I am terrified (to the point of nightmares) of snakes, but my kids LOVE them.

    While I will not have a snake in my home, I do take the kids to the reptile house at the zoo, and put my head down the entire time. They are sooo excited that they tell me all these disgusting freaky facts. And then they want me to look up snaky stuff online (they're not allowed on alone - I have to sit with them!). TORTURE!

  15. My parents did the same thing to me - but I never saw it as punishing me with a book. It was just taking a way the tv/computer so that all I was left with (indirectly) were books.

    It didn't spoil my love of reading one tiny bit. My parents instilled in me that books were good things and as they read all the time, so did I.

  16. I agree with you. I think punishing kids with reading will definitely make them see it negatively. But, at the same time, it sounds more like you're saying they're being sent to their room and books are the only thing in there that they are allowed to interact with. Which, isn't really using books as a punishment to me. If a parent literally hands a kid a book and says, you have to go read that in your room because you've been bad, I could see them reacting to it negatively, but if they're choosing to read over sitting in their room doing nothing during a time out, I think it could actually turn out positively.

    I don't really remember ever being punished with time-outs, I'm sure I was, but I don't remember. lol I do remember reading with my mom before bed, so that was always a positive for me as far as reading was concerned.

    I liked reading as a kid, but I didn't really get gung-ho and all crazy into it until after I was in high school. I still tried to do it lots, but I wasn't as absorbed into it as I am now. I could've gone weeks without picking up a book that I'd chosen (other than the school ones), and now I can't imagine going a few days without picking up a book...even if I don't have time.

    I think for reading most kids hate it because it's difficult for them. Often because they're forced to read in school, and they don't want to. Or they're trying to read the wrong books...wrong because it doesn't interest them. I think book choice is a big part of what keeps people from reading...that and eye problems. If it hurts your eyes, you're not gonna want to keep doing it. :P lol

    This was an interesting subject, thanks for bringing it up. :)

  17. Leslie - My parents DID take away books from me (like they took away toys or TV) and this made me really appreciate books a lot more as well. I think by teaching me that books are privileges, I learned to love them even more - that it's something I have to earn. So I tried harder, because I wanted to earn them. I was never taught to fear them.

    Hanna - I think what I was trying to talk about are the parents that scare the kids that if they do wrong, they will be punished with the "horrors of reading." So I don't think your parents did that at all since they actually encouraged you with it! :)

    Ambur - Thanks for your input :) I DID mean that the parents send them to their room TO read (to endure the "horror" of books) so it does send out a negative message that, if you do something wrong = books.

  18. Thats a shame to use reading as a punishment. I've always made reading time something fun for my kids. Since they were little, I'd take them to the library early on Saturdays and let them search for those books. Till this day, they enjoy reading. Especially my daughter. We often read together. My son is a teen now, and his reading time has lessened, but I do hope that I instilled that love of books into him and he'll love reading again. This past summer he read a few Stephen King short stories and was hooked on them.

  19. Crap. I'm coming in on this discussion later than everyone else.

    Growing up my parents and sibling did not read. They found it strange that I loved reading as much as I did. "Family Time" consisted of sitting in front of the tv and watching the Simpsons, Southpark, and King of the Hill. I would take my book with me to "family time" and they would get angry with me.

    I hated the TV so much that I grew to love books more than the average kid. My punishment, when I was grounded, was to take away my library privileges. I wasn't raised to love books but I grew to love them even when my whole family didn't get it and considered me strange. The person who gets credit, I think, to starting my book love was my first grade teacher. Sad, but true.

    I suppose I'm an example of what can happen when your parents don't raise you on reading but your teacher somehow does. I'm very grateful that she brought reading into my life at a young age when no one else did :)