An honest take on life and parenthood

Spare the rod, and utilize the naughty chair

on May 29, 2012

Discipline. Oh, what a tough practice it is. But when the Pooh turned about 20 months old, I decided that she was old enough to understand the consequences for her actions, and to also begin learning self-control.

I went to Michael’s Arts and Crafts and purchased a tiny fuschia folding stool, which fit her little behind perfectly. She misbehaved (I believe it had something to do with pulling Lily’s tail) and with one hand, I unfolded the stool. With the other, I plopped her on it. I told her she had been naughty and that she had to stay there until I told her to get up.

Well, you would have thought I was beating her with coat hangers, Mommy Dearest style. The wailing and crying was unbelievable! I made her sit there for two minutes, with her back to me, and then I let her get up. I gave her a hug and a kiss and explained to her why she had been punished. So far, this method has worked well.

I’m not sure why I decided to discipline her this way. Growing up, I always thought that I would parent the same way that my mom did – under martial law. She was very old-school. I know she loved us, but she had no hesitation about spankings or hitting or losing her mind, a la Tasmanian-Devil , if she thought it was necessary to drive home a point. We were so quiet when we visited my mom’s friends that they often forgot we were there, which made my mom very proud.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when the Pooh makes me so angry that I do want to hit her, but just as the thought crosses my mind, I check myself and conciously push it aside. For example, she ran away from me at the pool yesterday, and took off down the sidewalk towards the parking lot. She scared the crap out of me. She was laughing the whole time, thinking it was a game, but I was scared and angry. I reprimanded her and we left the pool immediately as a consequence of her behavior, but I know my mom would have beat my behind for the same behavior.

It’s just that I have fundamental problems with corporal punishment.

First, there is the gross imbalance of power. As an adult, I am bigger, stronger, and smarter than a child. It seems ridiculously unfair to exploit that advantage and hit someone who really doesn’t stand a chance against you. What’s so great about dominating someone with force who can’t defend themselves fairly on an even field? It’s just messed up, in my opinion.

Second, a spanking is a cheap shortcut that teaches that violence is the way to change behavior. The sting of a spanking will subside, but I have always questioned whether it is truly effective in changing behavior as a threat or a punishment. As a child, I remember being spanked by either my mom or stepfather, and crying. I could not help crying, and I could never understand being told, “You better stop crying or I’ll spank you harder!” I would choke back the sobs and the tears just to make the spanking stop, but spanking never quite made sense to me, even as a child.

Please don’t think I am portraying myself as a victim of child abuse. I wasn’t. Times were different then, and my mom just had a very short fuse and a stressful life, and a different philosophy of parenting.

That said, I have found that I parent very differently from my mother, and discipline is one of those areas. Occasionally, I get whiffs of her disapproval when the Pooh is misbehaving, but she doesn’t interfere. I discipline the Pooh when I think she is out of line, and fortunately, I don’t have to discipline her often.

Sometimes I have to laugh to myself when she is wailing like a banshee on the naughty stool for some infraction. It’s not nice to laugh, I know, but it’s funny to me that she makes a big show of screaming as if I am beating the daylights out of her, and all I have done is made her sit down and be alone for 120 seconds. Such a drama queen. The mental anguish of the naughty stool is surprisingly effective, and 99% of the time, she settles down after she parks her tiny caboose there for a couple of minutes.

So no spankings in my house. It’s possible I may change my mind at some point in the future, but for now, my $3.99 investment in this tiny stool is all I need to make sure the Pooh is sugar and spice and everything nice.

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