As these folks on Reddit recently shared, some parents like to think outside of the old timeout corner or “go to your room” grounding. These parents definitely used some creativity when it came to handing out punishments to their children. As you’ll see some of these disciplinary measures were pretty effective, while others just seem needlessly cruel. Either way, this list of strange punishments will no doubt conjure up some unfortunate childhood memories.
My sisters and I would have to memorize passages from Shakespeare together. It was horrible to be fighting and then sit together for half an hour or more memorizing and reciting until my dad returned. One wrong word and he’d leave us for a while. Probably the worst part is it made me hate Shakespeare. I’ve had corporal punishment and all that but this stuck out.
My best friend and I snuck out and walked to the nearby convenience store late at night in sixth grade. My father made me write a 20-page research paper on Watergate. I have no idea why he chose the topic, but the knowledge has come in handy many times in my life.
When I was five or six—definitely old enough to know better—I bit my older sister directly on the stomach. I left top and bottom teeth imprints, it wasn’t something minor. Mom grabbed a dog collar and leash and then tied me to a doorknob for several hours. “If you act like a dog, you get treated like a dog.”
I loved reading as a kid. My father realized sending me to my room wasn’t a punishment. He was an English professor and he got pretty good at handing me appropriate discipline. After a while, my punishment wasn’t going to my room. It was tailored to me, and it was absolutely awful. I had to watch C-Span. I would have to watch politics for hours, and we would talk about it. Still makes me shudder.
I was one of the few, if only 12 year olds who could talk about the Senate, the House, who is trying to push through what, etc. As a grown-up now, I’m thankful, though as a kid, I was stunned—how did he come up with something so anti-useful.
My parents didn’t know what to do with me because I was being a jerk, so they took literally everything out of my room including my bed. It was weird and I remember sitting in the corner with my teddy. I was hiding it so they wouldn’t take that too. I was the firstborn, so they’ve learned since then.
A little brother. I still don’t know what I did wrong.
In elementary school, we had this one really strict teacher that would make us T-pose in the back of the room if we were being disruptive. Every one of us scoffed at the idea, but we were so, so wrong. It only took about minute until your arms started killing you. Very effective punishment. (Also, as I think about this, isn't this a variation on a genuine stress pose they use in, like, war zones?)
When I was a kid, anytime my grandfather heard me say I was bored he’d make me read the newspaper next to him. After an hour or so of that, I would no longer be bored. I miss him every time I see a newspaper.
I desperately wanted to order and watch WrestleMania. I was a massive Hulk Hogan fan at the time. However, I was acting like a little brat and wouldn’t stop. So, my dad ordered the WrestleMania pay-per-view. He sat in the living room and watched it and made me sit in the other room where I could just barely hear it but couldn’t see it.
He watched the whole damn thing and didn’t let me move or ever see the screen. It was just brutal.
My mom used to take away my CDs, so I couldn’t use my portable CD player. As an emo teenager who would angst out for hours to My Chemical Romance, this was the worst kind of punishment.
I thought I was a badass at 15 and snuck a bottle of Hennessy into my room. I hid it in the closet and would drink some with my friends after school. Well, my mom decided to clean my room randomly and found the bottle. When I got home my dad made me sit down and put the bottle in front of him. He then put out three glasses and called my little sister (13) and brother (11) and told them to sit with me.
He then poured three glasses of Henny. But his words were so much worse than his actions. He told me to serve it to my siblings. I said no way! He asked why not, and I said, “because they’re too young,” to which he replied “YOU ARE TOO!” So he made me pour everything down the sink. To this day I never bring alcohol to my father’s house. That psychological punishment stuck with me for life.
I once flunked a class in middle school and my dad got his belt ready. I look at him all scared and he just looks at me straight in the eye and says, “This is not for you, this is for me, you will hit me with this belt for being a bad parent and not being there for you.” I just started crying. I had no idea how to process that event.
It eventually made me realize that my dad wanted me to feel his pain in some way. I still have my doubts if that was the best method, but I never failed a class after that.
I was forced to smell dog breath because, “If we have to deal with the filth from your mouth, then you have to deal with the filth from its mouth.” I got this on numerous occasions. It sounds silly at first, but it was anything but at the time. I begged them to give me anything but that.
I was deathly afraid of the basement in the house where I grew up, and the threat for not adhering to lights-out time made my blood run cold. We were forced to sleep in the basement for the night. Anyway, I forget what I was doing but I was up to no good one night, probably reading comic books with a flashlight or something, and I got sent to sleep in the basement.
I was pretty much up all night being super scared. It was threatened a lot but I think it only actually happened once.
My parents routinely took away my library card when I did something worth punishing. So I memorized it. When they caught on they refused to go to the library with me for the duration of my punishment. So I started volunteering at the library once a week so they had to take me.
When I was 10, mom would take my NES games for a week. When I was 13, mom would take my SNES games for a week. When I was 16, mom would take something else. But the joke was on her! She took BLANK FLOPPY DISCS for a week. I didn’t explain the mistake to her until I moved out.
For some reason my parents allowed my brother and me to have a very basic bow and arrow, which we were allowed to shoot at a cardboard box in the backyard. I, being very young and very dumb, crawled into the box while my brother was firing. Parents were not pleased and to demonstrate how dangerous what I had done was, they made me lie on the couch for the whole day and pretend I was in a hospital bed.
When I was little, my mom’s go-to punishment was to make me kneel on uncooked rice for about 15 minutes. I had to keep a straight back or else the time was increased. She did this because that was how her mom punished her and her brother. She eventually stopped using this punishment after she set some clear boundaries with my very controlling grandmother.
She never felt right making me do it. My little sister never had to go through it. I kind of resented that for a while, but eventually was grateful she didn’t experience it.
I was being a total jerk as a teen—I think I was 15—and tormenting my little brother by grossing him out. Stuff like burping in his face when he didn’t expect it, making him smell my feet, etc. Naturally, he really hated it. It made me laugh and I called him a wuss for being grossed out so easily. After he came to her crying one day about it, my mom warned me that if I didn’t stop, I’d be very sorry.
I didn’t listen and it was the worst mistake of my childhood. My mom ran a small “doggy daycare”/ pet grooming business. The next time I did this to my brother, she put me to work cleaning filthy dog kennels—without gloves, and without a scooper. Worse, she introduced me to what dog “anal glands” are, which groomers often have to “express.”
Around three times a day that week, I had to express dog anal glands. I was not allowed to wear gloves. I puked. Every. Single. Time. She planned on the punishment lasting all week, but my brother asked her to let me off the hook after he saw how defeated and broken I looked by Wednesday.
I was always more the artist type. I didn’t much care for throwing the football around or working on cars. I wasn’t belittled or anything, my family let me do me. However, my step-father was an evil genius and when I did something that was considered a minor infraction, he’d give me the option of either going to bed early or staying up till my normal bedtime but having to watch sports with him in the living room.
And I couldn’t just zone out or read. He’d sit there and make chit chat about the game or try explaining the rules or the players’ stats or something else I couldn’t have cared less about. I’m 34 and we still laugh about that sometimes.
When I was preparing for high school I absolutely sucked at writing, particularly long response/essay questions. To mediate this, my dad spent a week having me write a different essay every day about the most simple and mundane tasks. The one that really sticks out in my mind was the first one, “How to Put a Football Away.”
By doing this, though it seemed inhumane at the time, I learned how to expand a simple thought into highly descriptive details and became a great writer throughout the rest of my school career.
No punishment. And that in itself was punishment. I totally bombed during my first semester in college. I took 16 credits and ended up with a 0.77 GPA for the semester. Yes, less than 1.0. My parents were disappointed, but told me that they knew I could do better, and they knew I would do better. They forgave me and basically said, “Okay, so you screwed up, now make it better and make us proud.”
The fact that they were not upset really weighed on me. It REALLY put a ton of guilt and shame upon me, even though they didn’t put those things on me, I did it to myself! It really motivated me to not goof around any longer in college. I buckled down and really succeeded.
One time I forged my mom’s signature on a school discipline warning thing. She made me write my own signature 500 times, “so I wouldn’t write the wrong name again.”
We had four cats. Mostly because I wanted them. However, I often would “forget” to clean their litterboxes, because it grossed me out. Especially when one of the cats wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t stand the stench. So I often just kept putting it off until someone else did. After my mom got tired of this, she took it to the next level. I came home from high school one day to find all of the litterboxes moved into my bedroom!
I was told they would stay there for a week. I was not allowed to open windows, or to sleep anywhere besides my bedroom. She also replaced the litter we were using to a brand with no odor reduction. It doesn’t sound like much...but oh my god it was horrible. I would have much rather been spanked.
In my high school years when I got in trouble, my dad would hand me five dice. I’d roll them and whatever number came up, I’ll use 19 for example, I would do 19 push-ups, turn over and do 19 sit-ups, turn over and do 18 push-ups and so on alternating all the way down to zero. At the time, my father was a drill sergeant in the Army.
It was a pretty effective way to keep me in line.
I was about six or seven and was an extremely picky eater (still am). I could usually be found at dinnertime sitting at the table refusing to eat and my dad making me sit there until I cleared my plate. I was good at putting food in my glass of milk or in my napkin when no one was looking, so usually, it was no big deal. However, on one particular night, he decided to keep a close eye on me and we had crab cakes. I’ll never forget that night. It was utterly traumatizing.
I absolutely detest seafood of any kind. I took a big bite of the crab, probably thinking that it would go down quickly and I would be done. Nope, it went down and immediately came back up. My dad, being a jerk, decided he was going to teach me a lesson, probably about wasting food and his time, and made me re-eat the crab. I asked him about this recently and of course he has no memory of it.
My mom had a cardboard box named Gobbler with googly eyes glued on one side of the lid, and a toothy hole for a mouth. If she told us to clean our rooms and we didn’t, the cardboard box would come and eat our toys left on the floor, which then got stored inside of it back in the garage. We could then do extra chores in exchange for points that could be redeemed to earn our toys back, or if we chose not to do so, the toys got thrown out or donated after a period of time.
My aunt lived by a busy highway. If any kids fought at her house, you had to hug for five minutes while standing in full view of the overpass.
When I was 16, my dad asked me to wash his car. I told him to wash his own damn car. He then told me to get in the car and drove an hour to his friend who had a car dealership and to wash it there. So I walk over to use their power washer, and he tells me I can’t use it, and to go get a sponge and some buckets. The two of them sat there watching and mocking me.
We then drove an hour back home. It was a 30-minute drive but he used small roads and took a detour. It completely ruined my Wednesday afternoon.
One time while my family was camping, my older brother and I wouldn’t stop arguing about something dumb and our dad took each of our favorite toys and threw them in the fire. Watching your favorite thing burn right in front of your eyes really straightens you out.
When I was a kid, Twin Peaks was blowing minds on prime time. My parents wouldn’t let me watch it, so I attempted to do so sneakily—stuffing towels under the door to hide the glow of my TV—but didn’t consider that they could still hear it. When I was eventually busted, they came up with a truly deranged punishment. They made me in the kitchen in front of a bowl of creamed freakin’ corn, while they watched it in the living room.
Years later, I told my mom about having FINALLY watched it, and she said something akin to, “See? It was worth the wait! Hope the garmonbozia helped!” I love that lady!
When I got in trouble, my mom sent me to my grandpa. He made me go fishing, walking in the woods and hunting with him. And he made me learn about the outdoors: what to eat and not to eat, how to tie knots, how to throw a knife and tomahawk, how to shoot a gun, how to make fire, how to make a shelter. He would never yell at me or directly berate me about what I did.
He just told me what good things were, and gave examples of good behavior that were vaguely like what I had done wrong. So it was like he was telling me a story, but instead, he was telling me what the right thing to do was. For example, I got caught shoplifting. I fell in with some bad kids in the seventh grade. The only thing he said to me was that he was disappointed in me for doing that.
Then, the next morning he woke me up before dawn to go fishing and mushroom hunting. While we were fishing, he told me about why and how laws work, why they’re important, and why we should follow them. I feel like it was the most effective punishment. To this day I’m grateful that I had my grandpa to deal with me when I was bad.
He made me want to be a good person, told me how to do it, and then at the end of the summer or weekend or whatever, he sent me back to my moms to work on what he told me. And I think I turned out to be a pretty good person.
When I was little and would throw a fit, my mom would pick me up, bring me to the nearest bathroom, and point me at the mirror so I could watch myself cry and fit. It would make me stop because I didn’t want to see that. Sometime it would also make me laugh. It was weird, but it worked.
I went through that phase of playing with fire. I thought I was being smart. I just liked to see how things burned. So I was ripping off sheets of toilet paper, lighting them on fire, and then dropping them in the toilet. It seemed safe to me. Mom didn’t think so. I was warned and yelled at to not do it again. Well, the next day rolls around and I did it again. Big. Mistake.
And again I got caught. So my mom took the security blanket that I had at the time—I was probably five or so—and lit it on fire in front of me. I stopped playing with fire.
I was grounded from petting, hugging, or talking to our mastiffs. All because I skipped practicing the piano. Needless to say, I started taking it more seriously.
The “Buck Rag.” For those who don’t know, count your blessings. A buck rag is a rag that’s been rubbed all over a sweaty, oily, urine-soaked billy goat in rut, and is often used for goat breeding purposes. In our Alabama town, it became popular for parents to use these to punish children. Goat farmers would even sell the rags for the purpose.
Basically the teenager would be taken outside, and the parents would remove the buck rag from the jar, drape it over the kid’s face, and tie a knot in the back. Plenty of room to breathe, no room to avoid the smell. I never saw why everyone feared it so much until my parents gave it to me one night for sneaking around with my boyfriend at night.
I puked. A lot.
My sister and I were arguing over some cheap plastic recorder—the musical kind, like a clarinet from hell for overtired parents. I wanted it because she wanted it and she wanted it because I wanted it. In the end, my dad walked up to us. His actions made our jaws hit the floor. He settled it by breaking the recorder in half and handing us each a piece. We both learned a valuable lesson that day.
When I was four, my mother was fed up with my stubborn refusal to eat my sandwich at lunch one day. She picked it up, separated the two slices, and stuck it to my face. There was a moment of complete silence as I stopped whining and evaluated what she’d done. After that, we both collapsed with laughter.
In high school, my friend got caught smoking weed by his mom. His punishment was that he had to tell his 95-year-old strictly religious great-grandmother, who thinks weed is just as bad as heroin.
My mom turned off the electricity instead of turning off the Wi-Fi when I was playing too much Minecraft. I’m terrified of the dark and I was really scared that some monster was in the house. I screamed so loud, we got noise complaints from both neighbors.
Anytime I would come home hungover, I would have to help my dad do manual labor outside in the heat. Fixing a lawnmower, planting/gardening, painting, you name it. He was always right there with me working too, he just always needed my help. I just thought it was just a crummy coincidence and my parents had no idea that I even drank. Once I was an adult, however, I realized the truth. Yeah, it was definitely no coincidence. They were on to me the whole time.
My dad is a graduate school professor and he made us write essays about what we had done wrong, why it was wrong, and what we should have done instead. We had to cite sources and use outside information and research. My dad would then read and correct the content and grammar of the essays until they were deemed satisfactory.
We were basically grounded until the essay was complete and considered good enough. The worse the infraction, the longer the essay and the harder he critiqued it. For example, you left the dishes in the sink after being told way too many times? Pretty soon you were writing a short essay about germs and proper food handling, etc.
I remember specifically getting caught drinking in the garage when I was 16. My dad was really angry and I had to write a 20-page essay about what the consequences of teenage drinking were to my 16-year-old brain, how much legal trouble I could have gotten into, and how much legal trouble my parents could have gotten into for allowing teenage drinking.
Huge pain, but it got us thinking about topics we usually didn’t think too in-depth about, and it was better than having my parents yell and scream. Usually by the end of the essay writing process both parties would have chilled out and a calm discussion would follow.
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