Friday, March 06, 2009


This has always been a full-disclosure blog, but this is tricky territory, so bear with me. Christie and I were talking about discipline last night, and I had a realization: I don't know squat, except what I don't want to do, and that's not particularly helpful.

My parents practiced corporal punishment. My grade school practiced corporal punishment. I do not want to practice corporal punishment. Unfortunately, I'm finding that I don't, at a gut level, trust non-corporal punishment.

Now, I'm not talking about beatings. But at the base of every punishment, there was pain. Even the non-corporal punishments, like groundings, were enforced with the potential of a spanking. On some level, I felt like that was all that kept me from climbing out the window and going wilding, I guess.

So the whole timeout thing seems weird to me. Every time we've watched some show like Supernanny, and she's putting kids in timeout, I find myself asking, "What happens if they won't stay on the naughty step?"

"Then you put them back on."

"And what about when they get off again?"

"Then you put them back on."

"And if they won't go?"

"Pick them up and put them on the step."

"And what if they fight you?"

"You put them back on the step until they've finished the timeout."

"But what if they won't stay there?"

And we're back where we started. I'm starting to realize that, when it comes to punishment, I'm like a Ron Paul Republican trying to understand a fiat currency. They don't think any money without a gold standard is "real", and I don't, in my gut, understand how a punishment can be affective if it doesn't have physical pain somewhere in the equation to back it up.

Now, you might think this would make me want to use corporal punishment once our little disease vector is old enough, but it's had quite the opposite effect. The more time I spend around parents who don't spank, and see how their kids grow up, the more I realize that my thinking has been fundamentally warped. There is this entire world of ways to encourage and discourage behavior, and my thinking is stuck on the Spanish Inquisition.

Luckily, my gut isn't the one making parenting decisions, and my brain is thoroughly convinced that corporal punishment is not even going to be in the toolbox. The next step is to read a whole lot of books in the goal of re-educating my gut. I'm going to start with the Love and Logic books, but I'm open to suggestions. Anybody out there got any recommendations?

Update: Christie and I were talking about this yesterday, and one of the things that's most ironic about my instinctive desire to have corporal punishment available as a tool of last resort is how many times I've seen parents who are using corporal punishment, desperately searching for something else because it doesn't actually help them engender the behavior they're looking for. Why would I want it for a tool of last resort, when it's not actually a very good tool? And yet I do. More evidence that my brain is broken.


Kathy Slattengren said...
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Heather Piper said...

Brian and I have been using Time Outs very successfully since both toddlerettes were barely toddlers. Elizabeth always stays put in the time out chair. She screams and howls, but she stays.

Adam tries to sneak out, so we have to sometimes stand right by the time out chair to make sure he's not wandering away.

When time out is over, we squat down to their level, ask them if they know why they're in time out (most times they do, and if they don't, we remind them). Then they are required to apologize to the person they wronged (usually the sibling), and all is good....

until five minutes later when we have to repeat time out.

It's never-ending work, though. Once they stop one bad behavior, they pick up another.

I really don't have any advice, other than to do what works best for you. Every child is different and every parent is different, so what works for me, may not work for other people.

You two are great people, though. I'm absolutely certain you'll find something that works perfectly for you. :-)