When one’s child does a betise, also known as a bad thing, moment of evil or something naughty, what do you do?
When Mateo was born, I never imagined he’d do something THAT bad, that a scolding wouldn’t fix. Then the scales fell from my eyes.
At the age of pureed, smushed up foods, he was throwing his cheerios, pasta and just about anything from his highchair.
Onto the floor (the dog had to be banned from the kitchen during mealtimes, as she got more than her fair share of baby food and was thus named The Enabler).
Onto the walls.
Onto anyone passing close enough to warrant a good target.
Repeated NOs did nothing but elicit hysterical laughter. The pediatrician told us to remove his food anytime he threw it – he’d learn for next time and his hunger would prevent him from starving. Mateo wasn’t exactly a lean child, and he could’ve lasted a week without solid food. Think a camel in the desert, except the hump was his entire body. The final resort was a small, sharp smack on the back of his hand. Imagine a pair of rabbits fighting – you know, the ridiculous, wimpy air punching. Yeah, that, so scared were we of hurting the baby. Of course he had skin as thick as a rhino (all that fat) and merely smacked back. Fantastic. Teach your baby to bitch slap you.
As he got older, we got to the temper tantrums. Joy. Ignore him, everyone cried. Walk over his thrashing, shrieking body and go about your business. We tried that but honestly, it was so ear-piercingly painful —and he could roll from one end of the room to another in a heartbeat, so was never really out of being underfoot— that we broke.
Everyone I met or knew, told me to do a Time Out or Naughty Step. This, I understand, is the universally approved and applauded punishment for children aged one year and above, right up until school age.
It was worth a try. The first time, I sat Mateo on the first step which took several goes to get his bum to touch the step and then my virtually body squashing him to get him to stop standing up. It was farcical. He’d sit there whilst I “reasoned” away, like a moron, about why he was to stay on the step for 2 minutes of silence and no movement. Every time I finished, he’d look at me, blink hard, stand up and walk off. Frankly, I didn’t blame him. Wouldn’t you bugger off? It was hard not to laugh and feel a glimmer of pride in his toddler version of reasoning. I thought through the options — sit opposite him and make sure he didn’t move. That was the same as putting myself in a time out. I think NOT. Tie him down? Nothing to tie him TO. Glue his bum to the step? He was too strong and would likely just step out of his clothing. In sum, the Naughty/Time Out Step was discarded pretty quickly.
What did work? The Naughty Loo. In reality, the downstairs loo. One minute for every year of his life. We started at 30 seconds. He opened the sodding door. Well, he leant on it. Like I said earlier, he wasn’t small. We’d shove him back in, and have to lean on the door so he couldn’t let himself out. As he got older, the time in purgatory got longer. The longest to date has been 35 minutes. Not because he’s an adult but because he fell asleep on the floor and I forgot about him. MOTHER FAIL.
It’s incredible how he goes into the loo as a raging, bawling, lump of demonic fury and comes out a sweet little boy. He needs the 5 mins to shout out his anger, stamp his feet as hard as he can, and sometimes take a little 2 minute nap. I’d ask if he was ready to come out and apologise/finish his supper/pick up the object he’d thrown – and instead of the “WAAAAAAH ARRRRRGH” I’d been expecting, I’d get a normal, polite answer. One time, he told me he needed “more time to calm down.” IMAGINE THAT!??!
These days, the child is 4 and a half. When he has a meltdown, I merely shriek ‘TO THE NAUGHTY LOO!” and he takes himself. We call him Napoleon. Shoulders hunched, head down, feet stomping, fists balled at his sides…but off he goes and puts himself into the loo. I’m still amazed that does it. It’s bloody brilliant.
What punishing tricks work for you?