Ah, I complained when Rosie was eight that I couldn’t find a way to punish her that worked. Now that she’s twelve, I try and take away all technology and cancel play dates (actually they just “hang out”). Still if you ask me, I’m not mean enough. My kid would tell another story. This was first published on 08/05/2009.
When I was eight and I was bad, my mother sat me in the corner in the kitchen between the door to the basement and the door to the garage to “think about my behavior.” (To this day those words still put the fear of God into me.) She’d set the timer and I’d stare at the wall.
I spent some good, quality time in the corner. I distinctly remember the sounds the doors made when I kicked them. The basement door was wood (it made a loud THUNK) and the garage door was steel (it made a louder BAM).
I’d sit for hours and contemplate my wrong doing while the percussive door sounds drove my parents up a wall (this also drove the timer up in minutes, but what did I care?).
When Rosie misbehaves, I send her to her room.
“Don’t come out until you’re ready to behave (be nice, listen to me, say you’re sorry, whatever behavior needs to be modified at that time),” I yell.
This strategy was effective when Rosie was little because there wasn’t much for her to do in her room. When she threw a tantrum she had a bad habit of throwing her toys over the railing. I’d stand at the bottom of the stairs and load up a garbage bag. So, her room remained a toy-free zone; perfect for punishment.
Today, it’s filled with Build-a-Bears and Webkinz. Her American Girl dolls have a school in the corner. And, the shelves are filled with books. It’s like a little slice of heaven for a soon-to-be nine year-old.
And, I must be the slowest mommy in the world, because I never realized that until last night.
Rosie was bad. She was crabby. She had an attitude that you wouldn’t believe. So, I snapped the TV off and told her to go to her room.
There was no “think about your behavior and you’ll be able to come out and play.” I banished her to her room and told her, “It’s almost bedtime anyway. So stay there and just go to sleep.”
“DON’T COME OUT!” I bellowed. And, then I put my hands on my hips, gave her the “I’m not kidding look” and stormed away.
I was proud of myself. There was no negotiating. No listening to her say, “I’ll be good Mama. Give me another chance.”
I was the mother I always said I’d be. I was firm. I was tough. I was serious. I thought it was an incredible success as punishments go.
I went to my room, changed into my jammies and enjoyed the silence. Turned on the TV and watched a show on HBO with bad words and suggestive scenes. When it was over, I went to go check on my child who I assumed had cried herself to sleep, feeling sorry for her bad deeds.
Instead, I found all the lights on and the Hannah Montana soundtrack playing. Five of Rosie’s stuffed animals were having a spectacular tea party. And, a half finished Tinkerbell puzzle was on the floor.
My Rosie was lying upside down in bed, in her silkiest pajamas, reading a Junie B. Jones book. She looked happy as a clam. She was having fun.
That’s when I realized that sending her to her room was no longer punishment. She wasn’t sorry for her actions. She was having a great time.
And, I was mad. I ran to the CD player and hit the stop button as hard as I could. I tripped over a couple of bears and kicked the puzzle. I yanked the book out of her hands and turned off some of the lights.
And, then I looked at her and said, “The party’s over. You’re going to sleep! NOW! And, you’re not coming out of here until you say you’re sorry. Good night!”
And, then I walked away.
The next morning, I took the dog for a walk and called my sister. I told her about the night before. How I failed to successfully punish my child.
“I’m not mean enough,” I told her.
“Know what?” she said. “Next time, stick her in the dining room and make her stand up with her nose in the corner. She’ll be sorry”
I thought it sounded like a good idea. And then I remembered being eight years-old sitting in the corner in the kitchen between the two doors. My mom would set the timer and after a while I’d get a little bored (and probably a little angry) and begin to kick.
First I’d kick the wooden basement door (it made a loud THUNK) and then the steel garage door (it made a loud BAM)
THUNK BAM. (Left foot first, then right)
THUNK THUNK BAM (Left, left, right)
BAM BAM THUNK (Right, right left)
I remember my Mom running back to the room. “You just added five more minutes to your time! You stay there until you’re sorry”
Yep, I spent a lot of quality time in the corner. Did it work? Maybe. Would it work on Rosie? We’ll see. At least there are no doors for her to kick.
Ladies, how do you punish your children when they misbehave? Is time-out successful for you?