the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Gateway behavior to felony assault

Some of you are going to find this utterly monstrous but Leta still sleeps in her crib and not a toddler bed. She hasn’t yet figured out that she can climb out of it, and because of this built-in restraining mechanism she’ll be sleeping in a crib until she’s eight.

Right now the crib also serves as the time-out area for when she behaves badly. We are huge fans of that lovely British nanny on television who enters people’s homes and gives them permission to discipline their children. She’s good because her strategies work and because as an American I find that her British accent makes everything seem more reasonable. And vaguely sexy.

We started using her naughty area technique when Leta started showing signs that she was infected with rabies. I remember the first time Leta ever hit me in frustration. Without hesitation I got down to her level (step one) and then warned her (step two) that she if she hit me again I’d be putting her in her crib for two minutes, one minute for each year of her life. She promptly whacked me in the shoulder again with her little plum fist as if to say BRING IT, PERSON WHO READILY FORGETS THAT MY INFANT LOVE IS CONDITIONAL.

So I put her in her crib (step three) and then left her room and shut the door behind me. Two minutes later I went back into her room and explained why I had put her there in the first place (step four), and then I told her to give me a hug and say she was sorry (step five). In one of my favorite episodes of the nanny show a laughably clueless dad is trying to execute the naughty chair technique on his four-year-old daughter, and after the four-minute time limit he walks over to her and asks her for an apology. She looks up at him disgustedly, cuts him a look through the slits in her eyes that you would normally see from a lion right before it rips the hind quarter off a gazelle, and screams, “I’MMM SORRRRRRY!” He then turns to the nanny and in a moment that beautifully illustrates why she was invited into their home in the first place says, “I can’t tell if she means it.”

Yesterday morning Leta went on a tantrum bender because we wouldn’t let her eat M&M’s for breakfast. We repeatedly had to put her into a time-out because she wouldn’t take our warnings seriously, and once when Jon went back to her room to get her out of the crib she hit him when he asked for an apology. Does this give you a sense as to what we are dealing with, as to the unmerciful will we have unleashed on the world? Because my friend didn’t believe it until she witnessed one of Leta’s tantrums in the flesh, and it was then that she came to the realization that we did many, many months ago: sometimes cannibalism makes sense.

Jon left Leta in her crib for another round of time-out and came back into the living room to walk off some steam. When he told me what had happened I told him not to take it personally because she has done the exact same thing to me. “Leta’s pretty mature for her age,” he said trying to talk through the defeat. “She knows her letters and numbers and all that. I think she could handle it if we added on a few extra minutes to the time-out. Like 45.”

  • Lora

    2006/03/28 at 6:13 pm

    My son slept in his crib until he was almost 3 and a half. He, too, didn’t know he could get out and I really think he also loved the security of the bars. I loved it because it was so easy to get him to take a nap. The only reason we made him switch to a bed was because he is so amazingly tall and was literally touching the ends of the crib with his head and feet. We didn’t even bother with a toddler bed and went straight for a full. He’s only four and he’s already 4′ tall – off the charts. A toddler bed would have lasted a night!

  • Kassi

    2006/03/28 at 6:10 pm

    Nothing wrong with still using a crib. My son was in a crib until 2.5 years for the same reason: easy containment. Then he learned to climb, then it was all over because the bumps on his head were hard to explain without looking guilty.

    As for the last line…I’m with Jon (in theory). Good luck as you weather the terrible twos…threes…fours…fives…oh hell, good luck with the next 25 years, and pray that she doesn’t turn out to be a boomerang baby.

  • raine

    2006/03/28 at 5:58 pm

    I’m with you on the staying in the crib! We moved kid #1 to a big boy bed at 18 months because kid #2 was going to be arriving in 4 months, and let me tell you, it was WAY TOO SOON. Let’s just say, he never napped again, and poop smeared walls is not fun. So with kid #2, we’re waiting a lot longer. she’s 2 this month, and still in her crib. She could so totally climb out, but she doesn’t, and so there she stays. She loves her big brother’s bed, and we have given her a little pillow because she just LOVES the fact that it makes her crib more like a “bed”, and overall, I think the transition will be a lot easier for her than for her big brother, but … you know, when she’s 30.. then we can discuss it.
    another perk of raising child #2 – she totally knows where time out is, and what she has to do when we tell her to go there. She knows the drill backwards and forwards and we never had to go through teaching her about it like we did with kid #1.

  • Amanda Del Buono

    2006/03/28 at 5:53 pm

    I used to always say that whatever age Alex was, well THAT was my favorite age. I was sappy like that. But two? SO NOT MY FAVORITE AGE. I daydream about military boarding schools for toddlers.

  • Nothing But Bonfires

    2006/03/28 at 5:43 pm

    I totally remember BEING PUT in The Naughty Chair. I guess my parents were SuperNannies before SuperNanny herself. Or maybe it’s just a British thing.

  • Lisa

    2006/03/28 at 5:48 pm

    My son Zander is the same age as Leta (or pretty close, he turned 2 the middle of March) & he is still in his crib & has not tried climbing out at all. He is STAYING in his crib for a very long time yet. He is my 3rd child & I KNOW what happens once the crib is gone!! So keep her in it as long as you can.

    I haven’t done much for discipling Z. Pretty much because he isn’t talking yet….but he does understand everything we are saying. He pretty much runs this house & don’t ask me why. He gets what he wants for the most part!

  • KristieD

    2006/03/28 at 5:28 pm

    I do not find it monstrous that she is still in crib, because my son (20 months old) is still in his. He hasnt figured out how to climb out yet, so that is where he will stay for now. I am lucky, his tantrums are fairly mild and not to common. Good luck with it all, sounds like you are on the right track. Sending you lots of mental patience.

  • Julie

    2006/03/28 at 5:28 pm

    I remember when my parents had to stack these little child-gate fences two-high in my bedroom doorway to keep me from climbing over and escaping. I’m just terrified of what I will spawn someday.

  • iamjosh

    2006/03/28 at 5:19 pm

    …the proper way to hit a Mormon with a moving vehicle.

    now lets be fair.. is there really a wrong way? 😉

  • immi's mum

    2006/03/28 at 5:24 pm

    In Australia there was much debate about SuperNanny’s timeout technique. Main suggestions were:
    1) don’t make the timeout space the bed or anywhere fun
    2) don’t force them to say sorry as if they aren’t sorry, you are basically teaching them to lie to get what they want. not good.

    Choose your battles!

  • Jerri Ann

    2006/03/28 at 5:18 pm

    My first son was out of his crib at 15 months, but he weighed almost 35 lbs, so what’s a girl to do? Child #2 is only 22 pounds at 16 months and I suspect he might sleep in his crib until he starts to school. We have bought a bunk bed for the boys too so he needcs to sleep in his crib until we get #1 up in the top bunk…else we have to do moving of furniture and move the bunk to the floor.

    As for time-out, we use it and successfully. However, you know what worked better starting about a month ago…we put toys in time-out. He has this addiction for thomas the train and when he misbehaves in minor offense, we put a train on top of the fridge in time-out and he gets them back by doing good things and behaving well. We instituted a star program and he has to get 3 stars to get one toy back. This works better than putting him in time-out sometimes. Just some if “the Dooce” needs my thoughts, bahahaha

  • Vaguely Urban

    2006/03/28 at 5:17 pm

    I think the success of Super Nanny’s techniques is directly proportional to the common sense of the parents. Like in the episode last night, with the kid who was flinging (flang?) all her books off the shelf while she was in the Naughty Corner? I couldn’t believe the mom didn’t shut that shit down! What a mess. She needed Jo to tell her to relocate the Naughty Corner. GAH!

  • Sam Merrill

    2006/03/28 at 5:11 pm

    Hey that’s a pretty good idea 45 minutes but with one little add-on, a nyquil chaser. She’ll be out for hours! 😛

    (totally kidding of course)

    I feel for you both. It is times liek this when I pat myself on the back and say, “Thank you God for making me gay!” 😀

    I’m so glad the comments are (sort of) back.

  • monkey

    2006/03/28 at 5:10 pm

    My 17th month old, Connor, is approaching dangerous tantrum age. He’s gotten the hang of throwing things at me. Now my oldest,William who’s now 7, didn’t have too bad of a tantrum stage. And he was able to be out of the crib before he was 1. (Part of his tantrums involved doing flips out of the crib in protest.) I wouldn’t dare give Connor the freedom of a toddler bed yet. The damn apt would be destroyed! William was so easy as a baby that I wasn’t prepared for a kid I couldn’t turn my back on or needed to perfect the art of ducking. I said to my husband the other day “So I guess this is what people meant by the whole toddler thing…”
    But don’t worry…my mom always says we get what we dished out in return when we have kids. I’m sure Leta will experience all the good times she puts you through when she has her own munchkins! 😉

  • JustLinda

    2006/03/28 at 5:09 pm

    Hang in there… it won’t be long before she can understand the value of bribery and blackmail. When that happens, you’ll get some REAL traction. I’m not sure if Nanny 911 covers that, but if you need any pointers, you feel free to come to me, ok?


    Seriously, they do mature out of this irrational business. In fact, I’m told that any time now my oldest will be moving out of that phase. She’s 22 so it’s about damn time. That’s all I’m sayin’.

  • Holly L

    2006/03/28 at 5:08 pm

    I am a firm believer in the idea that the reason God made babies so damn cute is so we don’t murder them!

    I have a 10-year-old and I know how it feels to go through the toddler years wondering if you’re going to wreck your child by putting him in a toddler bed too soon, or not potty training early enough, or if letting him M&M’s for breakfast is going to cause him to grow up to kill cats or something. But what I’ve learned is that no matter what you do or don’t do, your kid will be screwed up for one reason or another so just enjoy the babies while they’re young.

  • Missy

    2006/03/28 at 5:08 pm

    The cutest ones are always the worst. I worked at a daycare and this angelic-looking blonde toddler used to pinch the boys and then burst into tears, making the boys get a time out and getting extra sympathy, to boot. I caught on fairly quickly but it was hard — even the other mothers were horrified to see her curly blonde head in the time-out chair, and would gasp and ask why on earth she was in time-out! I wanted to reply, “For being pure evil,” but of course I couldn’t.

    Nevertheless, I think time-outs are the best punishments; unfortunately there is a new ideology bubbling to the surface that demonizes time-outs because they are “humiliating” to the child. I hope this ideology gets stopped in its tracks, but who knows…

    I use time-outs with my son, who was also a hitter, but at 4 he is much, much calmer than at 2. So this, too, shall pass. Good luck. 🙂

  • AndreaBT

    2006/03/28 at 5:01 pm

    I screamed laughter at the last line, mainly at his justification 🙂

    Forty-five minutes…that’s only forty extra minutes for my five-year-old…

  • CartwheelsAtMidnight

    2006/03/28 at 5:02 pm

    I haven’t even read past the first paragraph yet, but I had to tell you. My daugher, Mackenzie, was in her crib until she was potty trained and wearing panties at night. (A little over 3.) We finally had to get her a real bed so she could get up and potty by herself during the night. She is 11 and perfectly adjusted. Her only issues come from having us as parents and nothing to do with her early sleeping arrangements.

  • prettycrabby

    2006/03/28 at 5:00 pm

    I thought that the Super Nanny also recommended a naughty stool or something just because putting them in their bed for being “bad” kind of teaches them that when they go to bed, they are being punished. ??

    That isn’t meant as a critism since I have no kids and I could obviously have it wrong! I don’t envy the day when I am in your shoes.


  • fixedupgirl

    2006/03/28 at 4:56 pm

    I love your Leta stories. I don’t have any children (only 23), but I have 5 younger siblings and one older brother, so never think you had it hard – my parents had it worse. 🙂

  • ChristyD

    2006/03/28 at 4:56 pm

    Ooh! I love the SuperNanny! My kids would be perfect if I could just get her to come live with us for a week and teach us how to be better parents. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who keeps her kids in the crib until they learn how to take the thing apart themselves.

  • Shelli

    2006/03/28 at 4:51 pm

    I’m TERRIFIED of what Malka will become – thanks for the heads up.

  • veg4me

    2006/03/28 at 4:55 pm

    As an infant my son always heard me tell the dog “good girl!” over and over again.

    At the age of 2 he was angry that I was taking him home from the park. I held his hand as he screamed and kicked, dragging behind me. He then shouted “BAD GOOD GIRL” at me and lunged forward, sinking his teeth into the upper part of the back of my leg.

    I ran in circles desperately trying to grasp him and he ran in circles behind me, latched onto my near ass only unclenching his jaw enough to howl “BAD GOOD GIRL!!” at me over and over again.

  • fred

    2006/03/28 at 4:44 pm

    i am putting our crib back together for our 4 year old… then i’ll also have to electrify the bars and attach a steel death cage to the top. the boy is not going anywhere.

  • christy

    2006/03/28 at 4:42 pm

    I think a cage match between Leta and my son when he was that age would be interesting. They sound like they are on similar levels of hellishness. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to check to see if I chipped a tooth from gritting them.

    Before he figured out how to climb out of the crib (at 15 months, for the sake of sweet baby jeebus) we would frequently put him in time out until he, uh, fell asleep.

  • momma 2 angels

    2006/03/28 at 4:44 pm

    Ah just the juice I was jonesin’ for! Supernanny rocks, yup. I am sure you know she has a book? I like her because she is behavioral- not a bunch of freaky parental analysis, just changing behaviors, period. I like how she reminds us to schedule play time and put our computers away for time to time too. I once read in a kiddie-babble book to discipline with “no rancor” meaning you are not disclocating any arms or bruising when you time them out- and today I watched SN on Tivo and she said the same thing- “no confrontation” in the heat of the battle. Stay it calm! And I vote yes on the cribby time-outs, it’s a happy place and the testers & wanderers are safe there.

  • Krooie

    2006/03/28 at 4:38 pm

    Thank God for the crib jail!

    I’m a nanny, and it’s the only thing that keeps the 2 year old I take care of in bed. I dread the day that she moves to a toddler bed, because she’ll never stay in it. She’s a toddler ninja–she can open any lock, and no door can contain her.

    I weep just pondering that day.

  • E

    2006/03/28 at 4:37 pm

    We always used ‘compromise’ with our two.
    The older one was about 3 and well versed with the concept and the younger one was about 18 months and not too well versed with anything so imagine my surprise when, in my trying to squeeze in another spoonful of dinner, she turned her head to the side (avoiding the spoon) then looked at me with one of THOSE looks and said “Compmise mum – one more (pointing at the spoon) – sert (meaning dessert)!” If she had said Pony, I would have lead it up the stairwell myself!!

  • Beverlee

    2006/03/28 at 4:33 pm

    It constantly amazes me how these little tiny people can control and manipulate us. Of course it is all forgotten when we witness them sleeping. Thus, we go through it all over again the next day!

  • Nicole Soukup

    2006/03/28 at 4:36 pm

    Hey, don’t make any excuses for keeping her in a crib as long as possible! People are crazy if they take their kids out any earlier than necessary. My DD was climbing out at 15 months and it was hell before and after we moved her to a “Big Girl bed”. Now, my DS is almost 3 and scared to climb out… I plan on keeping him in there until he is potty trained!

  • sweetney

    2006/03/28 at 4:28 pm

    oh, the british nanny — how i love her. we even deploy The Naughty Step technique with some regularity (and success, incidentally).

    but you want to hear monstrous? once mina figured out how to get out of the crib (around age 2), we went and purchased one of those crib tent thingies and installed it for the expressed purpose of TRAPPING HER INSIDE. she clearly wasn’t ready for a toddler bed yet, and we were clearly not ready for her to be uncontained at night… PROBLEM SOLVED!

  • Karan

    2006/03/28 at 4:30 pm

    Bwahahahaha you are doomed!!!!! Leta’s exactly like my daughter… just wait until she’s 15.

  • Lisa

    2006/03/28 at 4:33 pm

    Thank GOD you wrote about the crib vs. bed. I just wondered that today. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Also, I’m not the only one with a hitter – yeah! But riddle me this, Batman, has Leta ever pinched you harder when you said, “Ow, you’re pinching. You’re hurting me!”
    And this with an angry look on her face. Well, ok, sounds like you have more of same. Anyway, I’m with Jon – maybe not 45 minutes, but gradually increasing the time each time-out might help…or not? Good luck!

  • duchessjane

    2006/03/28 at 4:25 pm

    When my parents sent my brother to his room for time-outs, he would always lay on the floor with one hand in the hallway in defiance. When Mom would shut the door, he’d sneak one little finger out beneath the door.

  • vegasandvenice

    2006/03/28 at 4:27 pm

    I think the time-out area is a perfect idea and we love Supernanny too!
    Discipline seems so common sense, but everyone has a problem with it when they are confronted with their own little demons. It’s nice that someone reminds you of all the things you said you would or would not to discipline your children (of course those statements are made years *before* the kids). Heck, we don’t even have kids yet and were sure we can handle it. How naieve are we? Thank goodness for Supernanny! Besides, she delivers, like pizza … hmmm pizza!

  • Carli

    2006/03/28 at 4:20 pm

    Ahh, the British bombshell is a saint in my eyes as well. Without her, I would have lost my middle child and only son a long time ago. Did you see the one last night, with the bratty book throwing girl? Give her a crew cut and that would be my Jack, flinging Blueberry Shoe to the ends of the earth. Bastard. Sorry, I digress. I also just learned from Parent(ing)s magazine that tempers are worst between 3 and 4, so Jon is right – she’s totally gifted for her age. I sympathize with you, and have had my kids scream through the same dinner that they loved a week earlier. Sigh. You can’t win, we just go with it. Good luck!

  • bornfamous

    2006/03/28 at 4:20 pm

    “…friend freaks out and then there is a knock at the door from the friend’s husband. “Give me the child.””

    That is truly a good friend–and friend’s husband. Too bad there aren’t more friends [and friends’ husbands–like that.

  • im_this_many

    2006/03/28 at 4:18 pm

    there is a club for people going through what you are. it’s called: EVERYONE WHO EVER HAD A CHILD

  • Goingape

    2006/03/28 at 4:17 pm

    I am a child psychologist in training with my child pscyh friends, and we always talk about what we do in the therapy office would really be better if we could just do a Supernanny type intervention in the home. We just wonder if people would pay for it. I catch myself quoting Jo Marsh way more than I ever do Freud. 😉

    What do ya’ll think? Would you pay 1000 bucks for someone to come into your home and teach you how to reign in an out of control kid? Or would you rather go see a child psychologist once a week for 10 weeks at 100 bucks a pop?

    Of course, Heather, you and Jon sound like the parents that every child psyschologist dreams will come in…because you don’t need us! Not that you need my validation, but keep up the great work with Leta. She’s going to be a gem.

  • jams

    2006/03/28 at 4:09 pm

    MT Jen – i tried this same technique as a kid
    but my poison was chef boyardee spaghetti-blows
    (i was (unbeknownst to me) incredibly spoiled as a child and had a stay at home mom who cooked everything from scratch, bread daily, etc.)
    baby sitter forced me to eat the spaghetti-o’s and in a now idiotic but then brilliant move to SHOW her, i held those bad boys in my mouth for five and a half hours until my mom picked me up
    as soon as we were out the door, i promptly spit out the spaghetti-o’s on the baby sitters driveway

    now as a marginally reasonable adult, the thought of swallowing chef boyardee flavored saliva for five plus hours is down right revolting

    and i’ve never eaten them since that day

  • Self-Proclaimed Supermom

    2006/03/28 at 4:08 pm

    Oh Heather, keep her in that crib until she jumps out. Once she is in the toddler bed, all hell breaks loose!!

  • Melissa

    2006/03/28 at 4:06 pm

    Man I miss the crib. Mine have a time out chair. And I leave them there until they calm down, any where from 5 – 15 minutes. It works well for my four year old. Not so well for the 20 month old. Sometimes a toddler just does not care if they are being punished or not. Good luck. You’re lucky she doesn’t climb out. My youngest did it at 11 months.

  • omar

    2006/03/28 at 4:05 pm

    My kid is 8 or 9 months younger than Leta. I fear that reading this site is giving me a look into the not-too-distant future…

    But I totally think you guys were being unreasonable about the M&M’s. Why don’t you just starve the kid?

  • leahkay

    2006/03/28 at 3:59 pm

    Time to add video clips to the site, no?

  • Kristine

    2006/03/28 at 4:00 pm

    As long as you don’t call your friend and cry, “I SWEAR…I’M GOING TO PUT HER IN THE DRYER!”
    and of course, it’s said out of frustration, but friend freaks out and then there is a knock at the door from the friend’s husband. “Give me the child.”

    I told him, “You know where the laundry room is.”

  • Dada Mama

    2006/03/28 at 4:05 pm

    I feel your pain.

    I had a child psychologist tell me to hold my son in time out when he wouldn’t stay. I tried her technique and it resulted in a FORTY MINUTE battle on the living room floor, me holding the screaming child, the screaming child screaming ever louder while trying to bite me. (That sounds cruel. I wasn’t pinning him to the mat or anything. Just gently restraining him until he calmed down.)

    BUT–he now stays in time out when I put him there, though nothing has yet killed the screaming.

    The good news is that the harder they are as toddlers, the better they are as teenagers. I have been told this repeatedly by several more experienced mothers. I guess they could be lying to me, but it gives me hope nonetheless.


  • Strizz

    2006/03/28 at 3:59 pm

    Kids are evil. Why do you think they start out so damn cute? It’s all part of their evil little plan.

  • Shellybean/Michele

    2006/03/28 at 3:58 pm

    You’re on the right track, a minute for every year they’re alive but….. The crib is where she sleeps; don’t use it as a jail to hold her. Give her a time out area, be it her room but don’t shut the door–but not a crib that’s being used as a restraint/sleep area, that’s her safe area.

    I have a son who is very advanced for his age, he was reading and writing simple words at three (he’s seven now at reads at a 7th grade level), so I know that smart kid=smart ass at times. Since Leta can speak make her tell you what she’s sorry for, she can say “for hitting daddy, for throwing things etc. Then hug her, kiss her, love her and move on. It’s so important to make sure they understand what they did, and sometimes they’ll be so angry and full of tears they’ll forget–gently remind them what they did. Trust me, people ask me allllllll the time how I got such an awesome well-behaved child, loving child. This is how.

  • simzgirl

    2006/03/28 at 3:56 pm

    Oh how the Naughty Technique will save us all. Now if only I could use it on co-workers…

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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