I have been asked by many about different ways to punish unruly or misbehaving subs, when a Dominant should punish their sub and when they should be lenient.
Every BDSM relationship is different, so remember, thoughts on punishments different greatly from couple to couple. Culture, age, and personality all play into the way people see punishment. Below is a mixture of my view on punishment as well as a generalization of what I have read on other blogs and in books about their feelings on the subject.
My Padrone and I have the same thoughts and beliefs when it comes to punishment and hence practice this in our real life, live in, 24/7 Master / slave relationship. Punishment should only be given if a sub deliberately starts or causes trouble or breaks rules that were put in place for her safety. Punishment should doled out all the time because it can have lasting affects on the sub's mental and emotional well being. If you punish a sub for every slight infraction, it can start to make that sub feel worthless, instead of having the opposite effect of making them perform better.
For the 'to punish or not to punish' question, that is entirely up to the Dominant. If you know your sub has difficulties when performing certain tasks for you, but she does perform them to the best of her ability, I would say that you should be understanding and encourage her to keep trying her best. If you punish her for not being able to perform perfectly on the first or even third try, but you see that she has improved, even slightly, then punishing her for not being perfect will just add to the aggravation and disappointment she already feels inside herself.
As a true submissive, she will most likely be feeling like she has let her Dominant down by not performing the task perfectly as he asked. I will use myself as an example of this. I have epilepsy and it does have a long lasting effect on my memory. There are days when I am very slow or something as routine as the steps for making coffee are difficult for me to remember. My Padrone knows me so well and is so in tune with me that he recognizes when I am in one of these 'zones'. I have given him a cup of hot water before because I forgot to add the actual coffee to the machine! He did not punish me or yell, he actually made me feel better because I felt really stupid and was very hard on myself. He helped me laugh about it, went with me back to the machine and told me step by step what to do so that it was still my task to do, but he guided me in my time of need. There are many other examples and stories I could share, but you can see what I mean when I say punishment should fit the circumstances.
Now, if you give your sub a task like having dinner on the table when you get home from work and you find a sandwich when you were expecting a four course meal, you have to stop and think about the actual wording of the order. Did you just tell her to 'have dinner ready and on the table' by the time you get home? Or, did you say 'I want steak and mashed potatoes on the table' by the time I get home? When you give an order or task, make sure you do so in precise wording and are not vague, so there can be no misunderstandings. The more vague you are with a task or command, the more room for interpretation there is for the sub.
If your sub tends to be lazy and take the easiest way out when left with a vague order, I suggest you give her very precise orders where there is little or no room for interpretation. If she tends to be an overachiever or always exceeds your vague orders, then you are safe to continue, as you know she will always meet and beat your commands.
There are subs that love punishment or love to get punished, so they will constantly do things to make their Dominant angry and receive punishment. If you have one of these subs, I suggest you re-evaluate your relationship and how your punishment system works.
There are many different forms of punishment for both real life and cyber submissives. The main thing to remember is the point of punishment. When given, it should be done in a way to ensure the sub knows inside herself why she is being punished. It should also be done in some form or way that the submissive does not like.
As forms of punishments, a Dominant may ground, isolate, assign essays or line writing, time outs, have the slave kneel on ice/rice/pebbles, control what the sub eats, where they sleep, where they sit, or institute speech restrictions. There are many more forms of punishment, but these are the most widely used. If you notice, I left off spanking and flogging, as many subs are masochists and see these as not a form of punishment but a form of reward. So they will continue to act out just to get spanked more.
Specific Unpleasant Chore This can include things such as cleaning the stove, cleaning blinds and windows, scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush, detailing a car, etc. The Dominant can make a list of chores and rotate through them to avoid re-cleaning a recently cleaned item. Chores assigned as punishments should not include chores that are part of the submissives normal duties. It is important to distinguish normal chores from '"punishment chores" or the submissive may start to view all chores as punishment
Sleeping On The Floor (or somewhere other then normal sleep arrangements) This punishment is can be effective for dealing with a submissive that has become too vanilla in manner. Because of social conditioning this punishment tends to stress the position of the submissive relative to the Dominant.
Standing In A Corner This is an old standard. It gives the submissive time to think about the infraction. The length of time can vary from few minutes to an hour or more. It is suggested that the Dominant try this punishment for themselves, to get a sense of how difficult this punishment may or may not be for the length of time in question.
Writing Assignments Of Some Specific Length This punishment is helpful when the Dominant wants the submissive to think about or research a subject. It is recommended that this punishment be used intermittently rather then regularly to keep the act of writing from taking on a negative connotation.
Kneeling On A Hard Surface This is a very classic punishment that combines giving the submissive time to think about the infraction with mild physical discomfort. If the length of time to kneel will exceed 20 minutes it is recommended that a full 5 minute break be given after every 20 minutes. Kneeling for too long on a hard surface can cause nerve damage. It is also good to keep in mind that some submissives may not be able to kneel 20 minutes because of physical considerations. It may be that some submissives need to do cycles of 10 minutes of kneeling and 5 minutes of rest.
Kneeling On Uncooked Rice Kneeling on a hard surface can be made more severe by dropping a handful of uncooked rice on the floor where the submissive is going to kneel. Once the time period is done, the submissive can be instructed to clean up the rice as part of bringing the punishment to a close. This is another punishment where is suggested the Dominant try it for themselves to get a feel of the punishment. The same cautions and time limits apply to this as when kneeling without the rice. The Dominant should also be aware that the rice sometimes causes marking of the skin. Lastly, do not use instant rice as it crumbles and defeats the purpose of using rice.
Food Restrictions Obviously some common sense is required with using food restrictions as punishment. Being sent to bed without dinner is certainly not going to cause a healthy individual any harm. However, denying a diabetic food after they took their insulin could result in death. One suggested way to use food restrictions is to deny the submissive sweets for a period of time (days/weeks) as a punishment.
Restriction Of Computer, TV Privileges, Etc. Restriction of recreational access to things such as the computer or TV can be useful motivators when they can be enforced. The restriction can be total, where the submissive is not allowed any access to the items, or it can be limited to a certain amount of time. There is a wide range of options under this heading.
Cold Shower A brief cold shower can be used as a rather impressive punishment. There are several points to keep in mind when using this as a punishment. First, tap water varies in temperature depending on the time of year. A small difference in temperature makes a huge difference in the severity of the punishment. Next, it is important to define what is meant by "short". Less then 5 minutes is generally quite safe for any fit person; however, 30 seconds can be quite attention getting. This is another 'try it before you use' it type of punishment.
Send The Submissive To A Room By Themselves This one generally speaks for itself. It gives time for calming down and for reflecting. This is often a good choice when the Dom wants to avoid adding stress to a situation.
Grounding Being restricted to home can be a relatively effective and low stress punishment. External factors greatly affect the harshness of being restricted to home. This means that the same punishment is more or less severe depending on what else is going on in the submissive's life at the time. Being restricted when one has already bought tickets to a concert is more significant then being restricted when one has no plans.
Speech Restrictions Speech restrictions can range from requiring the submissive to speak in third person to requiring the submissive to not speak at all for a period of time. When silence is used as a punishment it is helpful to have the submissive carry around a notebook and pen so they can convey necessary information. Requiring a submissive to speak in third person is an effective way to make the submissive aware of self-centered behavior. Many times a submissive may not be aware of how just often they refer to their own opinions and desires in casual speech.
Public Apology Apologizing in a public forum stresses humility. The Dominant must carefully consider the reaction of those who are going to hear the apology.
Financial Penalties - Allowance Restrictions If the Dominant controls the finances in the relationship restricting spending money can be used as a punishment. This is same as a parent withholding allowance and generally works best over shorter terms such as a week to a month. When it becomes longer then a month the punishment starts to become the norm.
Lecture A good old-fashioned lecture can be an effective punishment. The lecture should include what specifically was wrong with the submissive's behavior and why it was wrong. The lecture should also include what the submissive should have done under the circumstance and why. If the submissive is required to maintain a physically stressful position during the lecture (such as kneeling) then the Dominant must also keep in mind cautions associated with the physical position such as time limits.
As odd as it may sound to some, the simple expression that the Dominant is angry at the submissive often carries a fair amount of punishment value. However, a fair number of submissives are inclined to view criticism and/or the expression of anger as an indication that the Dominant does not care about them. This can be nightmare of a problem and it is one that Dominants should always keep in mind.
So, in closing, always keep safety in mind, as well as the purpose of the punishment. Make sure the punishment fits the crime, it is a punishment that the sub does not like, and the lesson will be learned without lasting mental, emotional, or physical harm.