Definitions Part II

pun⋅ish

–verb (used with object)

1. to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal.
2. to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.): to punish theft.

Vs.

con⋅se⋅quence

–noun

1. the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: The accident was the consequence of reckless driving.
2. an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome.

I was recently told by a person I work with (a person with quite a bit more power than me) that the parents I work with are being “punished.” I disagree – I think the parents I work with are experiencing a natural consequence of their poor choices. I can see how the parents I work with may feel like they are being punished, but I think it’s different – punishment is inflicted; consequences happen as a matter of course. I realize that’s a little … blurry … but I guess I think of it like this: You play with a match, you get burned. That’s a consequence of playing with the match. You play with a match, you get grounded by your mom, that’s a punishment.

The thing that worries me about this individual feeling like our parents are being punished is that it somehow makes them victims. Maybe it’s the way she holds the words in her mouth -or what she isn’t saying. I think that deep down she believes that our parents are being unfairly punished, as if the things they did weren’t putting their children in danger. She injects emotion into a situation that should be driven by facts and thorough assessment and gathering of information.

If the parents I worked experienced the death of a child due to their drug use, I don’t think we’d say that they were being punished (punished by who, after all?). We’d say it was a consequence of their drug use, of their poor choice.

This makes sense in my head – it makes sense it how I do my work. But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. I worry that I’m not – and that this fundamental difference will ultimately have a higher price that we are prepared to pay.

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2 thoughts on “Definitions Part II

  1. Your definitions make sense and are accurate. I think the parents you work with are put into the system as a consequence of their actions. But in a way they are also being punished to make them (or more like hopefully get them to realize) get it in their heads that they can’t do what they are doing. I do think the lines get a little blurry when dealing with parents and children, though. I know if I suddenly lost custody of Eli for an extended period of time, I would feel more like I was being punished than dealing with a consequence. But at the same time, you have to be that child’s advocate and make sure they are well taken care of. I don’t know…I think if you save the life of even just one child, then the “punishment” was worth it.

    1. I know, it’s so tricky. I think the biggest issue for me is that this person thinks that it’s unfair and as a result, won’t hold the parents accountable for their actions, which means a fair few really don’t make progress.

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