An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.”

  • Laurie

    Mind you, all of this is from the position of a very proud aunt, so maybe the parents have something to add…..

    To the commenter who asked about a pop on the behind, I will say that I’ve done that with my nieces and nephews. My brother and sister have six kids between them and my in-laws have about 20 between the 15 sibilings (seriously my husband’s mother is a saint). But I have never smacked them for small and minor situations for when they don’t put their toys away or not making their bed.

    Now when my niece Vivian and I were at Barnes and Noble and she threw every book on 4 bottom shelves onto the floor, I did pick her up off the floor and smack her on the behind. I’ve also noticed that once they get over a certain age a pop on the behind doesn’t work anymore and you have to come up with a totally new method. If you’ve been doing the time-out technique all along, you don’t have to change your discipline method halfway through the game. In terms of discipline, consistency is the most important aspect that I’ve noticed. Which Heather and Jon seem to be doing, which is going to be more effective in the long run.

    But like I said, this is just the ramblings of a aunt that watches her family alot. Any parents have any input?

  • Mack’sMom

    I too am in love with the Super Nanny, and take her advice.
    My husband’s partner at work was actually on Super Nanny! Their episode was shown in September: He’s a fomer Navy Seal, now firefighter/Paramedic. She’s obsessed with cleaning and dressing her three girls alike. They have 3 girls and an infant boy.

    Their girls were monsters…and they are completely thankful for their experience because they are really a much happier family.

    The children mind their parents and the mother has backed off on being a perfectionist!

    The show makes it look like they are only with the nanny for a week, when they are actually with her for 2 weeks. The film crew is there a week ahead of time to get all of the extra footage, but then the Nanny comes.

  • Mack’sMom

    My daughter will be 2 in May. She has attempted to climb out of her crib, but I still refuse to put her in a bed quite yet! Confinment is my only source leverage with her anymore! She can attempt to climb out, but I’m always peeping through the crack in the door to be sure she’s not successful.

    I don’t like to use her crib as her time out spot, mainly because of the climbing but also because I don’t want her bed to be a bad place.

    I’m tired…very very tired! Soon she’ll be in a bed and I’ll be a walking zoombie!

  • joaaanna

    I still give my mom heck because I REMEMBER sleeping in a crib. I slept in one until I was four-plus. Her excuse is ‘it was a FIVE YEAR crib’. Really – we had a two bedroom house, I shared my room with my brother and we couldn’t afford anything else.

    But! When the day came for me to sleep in a real bed – I constantly fell out. I was so used to having bars to keep me in. After a scary night when I knocked the wind out of myself and freaked my folks out – they borrowed some of those hospital rails. Kept me in just fine – with some questionable marks on my head each morning. !

    Even with my memories – I’m all for the crib.

  • carolyn

    my five — FIVE!! — month old just started screaming at ear shattering levels to get our attention. not crying, just screaming. replace pacifier/pick up/remove toy/insert bottle, and you’re rewarded with the most heart melting grin ever.

    please tell me this is just a phase…

  • I love Supernanny. She rules.

    This past weekend my mom told me that she thinks it’s harder to raise smart children. I’ve decided that when we have kids, every time my kid is difficult, I’m going to blame it on their level of intelligence and hope that it’s true.

  • “How come those British nannies are so smart? Does having a British accent automatically make a person wise in all things? What’s up with that?”

    Yes, it does. Deal with it! (kidding obviously)

    I’m somewhat surprised that you guys think her accent is sexy, but glad. Because she has a bit of an Essex accent, and frankly if that’s sexy, then I am going to be very popular when I live in Virginia from August! I have that quintessential poshish British accent…

  • i loved this line:

    sadly, if my 4-yr-old niece’s behaviour is any indication, it is also soooo true for post-toddler love.

  • How come those British nannies are so smart? Does having a British accent automatically make a person wise in all things? What’s up with that?

  • Laurie

    My old college roommate and I get together to watch supernanny every monday (we were thrilled when they moved it from friday’s) Even though neither of have kids, I used to teach and she teaches 7th grade, so we love it analyzing it.

    Did anyone see the episode with the single mom who had 5 kids? 4 of which were two sets of boy twins, and then a single girl. They seriously needed to get that woman a live in supernanny.

  • jes

    Gosh. I am so glad you posted this story. I was beginning to think that Leta is a perfect child, and I was preparing to visit Utah so I could take her back home with me.

    Gosh. That sounds a little scary.

    I promise, I’m not scary.

  • trublu76

    If you keep up this habit of disclosing your positive parenting techniques, CPS isn’t going to have anything to knock on your door about. What happened to you???
    Kidding of course. Time out is a wonderful technique, but one that is ever changing. As Leta grows and changes the duration and location of her time out place may change. I understand what other posters are saying about not using her bed, but if you see no adverse effects at this point, you have to do what works.
    My two kids were always different, what worked for one didn’t work for the other. My most vivid memory of a time out experience was with my son, he got sent to his room for time out (no tv, computer, video games… oh the horror). When I went to tell him he could come out, there was a note on his bedroom door ‘I HAT YOU, MOM’. He meant I HATE YOU, but being only 4, he forgot the ‘e’. Made me laugh so hard I nearly wet myself as I ran to the phone to call my mother-in-law. She was in stitches, too. Funny kid, he is.

    Keep the posts coming, dooce, I don’t know what I’d do all day at work without them.

  • Hey, my son will be 4 in July, and he still sleeps in a crib. When it’s the thrid kid you keep them in there as long as possible. Also, I keep him in time out until he calms down, which is sometimes much longer than 3 minutes.

  • All I can think about is now I know why my parents spanked me. When we have children I am planning on also using the Nanny’s technique, and I really hope it works. However, when I watched that little girl standing in the corner last week throwing all the books across the room all I could think of was that girl needs a swift kick in the butt. I think I need to practice my breathing techniques!! 🙂

  • Sehbub

    Our girls (then 4 and 2) put my husband on time-out once. While driving to his parent’s house, he was acting incredibly obnoxious and singing offkey at the top of his lungs, just to annoy me. So, our oldest told him to be careful, or he’d have to go on timeout. He continued, she insisted on timeout. He told her she had to remember *why* he had to go on timeout for it to work. When we got home 7 HOURS later, our oldest took him by the hand, led him to the timeout chair, and said, “Daddy Robert, you were NOT being nice to mommy in the car. You are on timeout.” then to me, “Mommy, how old is daddy?” When I told her he was 30, our two year old’s eyes got as big as her head, and her chin started quivering…”But, but…daddy will be in timeout FOREVER!” Priceless.

    You’re doing an awesome job, and I know that when our third arrives at the end of June, we’ll have our hands full. The first two have been on timeout maybe a half dozen times each, and they’re now 6 and 4. We just never dealt with the biting/hitting/name-calling that most people deal with. We’re so gonna get it with this new one!

  • Villarica

    My DS has taken manipulation of parents to the next level: when I say it’s time for a time out, he willingly puts his arms up to be carried there, not crying or anything. Now how is that a punishment any more?

  • twoan7els

    God bless who ever invented the crib. My son is still in his crib (he’ll be 3 in July). He has never tried to climb out of it. Every now and then I think about converting it to a toddler bed by removing the front, then I lay down until the feeling passes. It’s nice to have one place to put him where I know he’ll stay! As for the time-outs we use whatever corner is handy. At Home Depot one time we were in the door section, where the display doors are hanging all together, and if you part them in the middle it makes a great corner. I have a 6mo. daughter that will be entering the toddler years as my son is exiting them. If she’e anything like him, some of us may not make it. . .

  • aren’t you concerned that using her sleeping area as her punishment area as well will affect her sleeping? Seems there’s a danger that she’ll start to associate it as a “bad” place and not want to sleep there anymore.

  • Scarlett

    The concept of timeout is definitely good – but sometimes can backfire. I must admit I don’t have my own babies yet, but I was also a somewhat… headstrong… child.

    Before I left the table every evening, I was supposed to thank my mother for dinner. It was just the rule to get out of my highchair. One night, apparently I didn’t enjoy dinner. So when I asked to get down, and Dad asked me, “What do you tell Mama?” I refused to budge.

    Daddy, thinking he had the upperhand, decided they would leave me in my highchair till I thanked Mom for dinner – assuming a not-quite-2-year-old would break before he did.

    [insert evil laughter here]

    At some point in the evening, after I fell asleep upright in my highchair, refusing to even whimper at being left alone in the dining room while my parents recessed to the living room for TV and conversation, they broke down, took me out, and put me to bed.

    Mom likes to tell this story as an example of two things: 1) when she figured out Daddy and I shared the exact same (stubborn) personality, and 2) when she realized I was quickly forming my own worldview and opinions that they couldn’t necessarily shape. (I’m another one of those disappointing liberal children of conservative parents, for example…)

    Frustrating for you, I know, that Leta is so independent and strong-willed – but I can’t help thinking, ultimately, how good it will be for her, and how proud you will be of the woman she’s bound to become.

  • Susan

    Ok. How many of you *adults* out there have been secretly wishing you could do the jello legs and flail around on the floor? Toddlers are unabashed unfettered emotions. How cool is that?

  • lilaclifter

    I say keep them in the crib as long as humanly possible. My son is almost 4 and started trying to climb out of the damn crib at 6 months old. Within a month I caught him perched at the top, before he was able to fall on the ground. After that he slept with me and I gave him a regular bed at a year old.

  • Ah, am I the only one imagining the extremely smug look on Chuck’s face when all this is happening? Like he’s thinking, MOOOhaHAHAHahahaha! Now all the M&Ms will be MINE! *even though chocolate’s bad for me*

  • Sounds reasonable.

    We actually have another level – naughty step and then bed.

    She knows she has to sit on the step (and miraculously she does!) if she’s naughty and if she still plays up then she goes straight to bed. I feel it gives me a bit of escalation possibilities! 😉

    and madly, we’ve only had to put her to bed ONCE, whereas the step we use often…

    but then I live in the UK! 😉

  • amber

    first, i’m a huge fan… read you daily, appreciate so much your realness.

    second, i’m a childless 29 year-old who someday would LOVE to raise a kid or two of my own. but, right now i’m busy working on some other life issues, which includes reflection on my own childhood, the parenting i received, etc…. my parents were fantastic, loving, supportive, and of course they wounded me as is inevitable. but i’d like to weigh in briefly as someone who apparently had spunk and tenacity as a child (and, as someone who believes in discipline and hierarchy as ways to make children feel safe and loved). i learned how to say “i’m sorry” without meaning it. i think that’s a hard lesson to AVOID learning in life. but, i’m doing everything i can to unlearn that now. everything i can.

    you clearly, clearly respect and love leta’s vivacity. all i want to say is: continue to do what you can to cultivate and preserve that. she’ll be glad for it later.

  • Hi! I wanted to like SuperNanny. I really did. BUT her techniques often rub me the wrong way. And we never see updates months later on how the family is doing… most likely the kids are still pushing buttons and still getting into mischief on an hourly basis.

    If you’re not familiar with the work of Alfie Kohn, I HIGHLY recommend it. (“Unconditional Parenting”) He speaks about honoring the child’s voice in regards to their own life. How our agendas don’t always match up with our children’s agendas which is why there is so much conflict, etc.

    I will also say, though, that I also have a tantrum thrower (and she’s 6 now). I’ve done things in response that I’m not proud of. Who likes being hit in the face or screamed at by their beautiful child? All the advice in the world won’t help if you’re emotionally spent and your child is mimicking the girl from the Excorcist!

    My other child is the complete opposite… easy going, more emotionally flexible, etc. It made me realize how different the personalities can be between different children!

    Looks like Leta will grow up to be a strong girl with her own mind. She’s gonna go far!

  • That Supernanny you refer to is brilliant. But what I want to know is why the rest of us British peeps can’t manage to control kids in the same way? She’s a rare breed, LOL

  • Herb Fairy

    I do agree with Shelly Bean. My first reaction to reading it was that the bed should not be used as the time out spot or the “naughty mat” area.
    I do not have kids so really should not be giving advice but I do have a dog and I was taught the same for her. She is crate trained and if she is bad i should never put in her pen as punishment because that is her nice relaxing, safe spot and should at no time be associated with something negative.

  • I have to agree with geokaz, about the forced saying you’re sorry thing, also about associating the crib with sleep, not punishment. But hey, you’re lucky you are able to keep her contained. My little Dr. Destructo took his crib apart by the time he was 18 months old, so really I’m not one to talk.

  • My caregivers never used the Naughty Corner on me as a child – they just shot straight on to emotional manipulation (of the whenever-you-throw-mushy-peas-on-the-floor-a-puppy-dies sort) instead. My grandmother used to say that if I was naughty she’d abandon me, or she’d sing me songs about how I was breaking her heart.

    I was a very good and reasonable child though, and from the moment I could talk it was possible to get me to compromise and be fair.

    On the other hand the-man-who-will-be-my-husband was a little nightmare and used to get put into the naughty corner quite often where he would promptly fall asleep.

    Quite a few of my friends were made to kneel on corn husks to help time out make more of an impression….

  • kilax

    I think that is a very good method for disciplining Leta. I am worried about how I will raise and discipline my children someday, but I think you are on the right track!

    P.S. I love your header! Did you make it in Adobe Illustrator?

  • Wow, your Leta stories, good and bad make me want to have kids! I know, I know – crazy.

  • Oh I love that nanny show! I *almost* wanna have kids now just so I can try out her techniques..haha. I have used them on my niece and nephew and they work well. cracks my shit up because their parents cant get them to listen but auntie jessica takes their tantrums and talk-back like a pro!

  • I loved this line: “We are huge fans of that lovely British nanny on television who enters people’s homes and gives them permission to discipline their children.”

  • Heather

    I totally miss the crib. My boys are 6 & 4 and several times a day, I wish I had a place to contain them. Time-outs really don’t work on them, but we stumbled upon ‘toy time-out’ as well. With them it works wonders. Duct tape also comes in real handy as well ;). Later on, you could always threaten to send her to Primary if she doesn’t behave 🙂

  • dooce, i’m a new fan. i love your style of writing and the content of your site. it is so much fun to read your blog because of its amazing humor and also because of its sincerity.
    that said, i’ve watched supernanny a few times, but i don’t have a kid and that show ruins the impression i have of cute babies, so i refuse to watch it. also, screaming kids, even on TV, annoy me. hopefully i’ll get over that by the time i have kids.

  • I’m pitching a new show to the networks entitled, “Mafia 911”. The target audience are parents how find Nanny 911 to be lacking when it comes to their offspring. In your case I think Mafia Mike would tell you to explain to Leta that if she didn’t stop her tantrum then you’re going to shoot Elmo in the kneecaps. If for some strange reason you don’t currently own a gun, then sticking him in the “crib” for her crimes might work just as well. Plus it sends a really positive message.

  • Her bed is supposed to be somewhere where she can go to rest and relax. It should be a pleasant place, with good memories.

    As much as I agree with your ways of disciplining,I think the designated area is wrong. Make it a place that she doesn’t have to go to aside from when she’s being the devil incarnate – not her bed.

  • Supernanny rocks! We watch t whenever it’s on. There’s loads of programmes like that over here, look out for Little Angels and House of Tiny Tearaways too.

    It’s a good job Leta’s so cute!

  • ahh, time out. i was introduced to this wonderful technique in ’97 when i was an au-pair for five kids between the ages of 8 months and 8 years and honestly, i don’t know how i would have survived the year [without taking serious damage from hitting my head in the kitchen cabinets over and over again] without it. don’t get me wrong. those five – the best kids. i love them. i had an amazing and awesome year. but when they were all there, at the same time, plus three playmates and two cousins … i’m stressed just thinking about it 🙂

  • I’m also a fan of the Supernanny (despite quite plainly not having children). Just whatever you do, please pronounce it “unaCceptable behaviour”. Saying “un-a-septable” is also just cause for a 45 minute timeout as far as I’m concerned.

  • I burst out laughing reading this. My twins are now just over 3 years old. They would still be in cribs if my son wasn’t climbing out of his, into his sister’s, and then screaming for help when she sat on a pillow over his head. He, of course would conviently forget how to get out. Fortunely, this particular problem has stopped now they are in actual beds. The hubby and I have often discussed Jon’s thoughts and tend to agree…..depending on the current behaviors of the kids.

  • My 3 year old is going through a ‘phase’ right now. And by ‘phase’ I mean ‘If he doesn’t stop this tantrum crap, I’m totally selling him to the gypsies, at a discount’

    We set his little butt on the couch and I don’t put a time limit on it. It’s when he stops throwing a fit and can talk to us like he should that he can get up. This is usually no more than one minute for each year of his age, but if he needs four or five minutes to get over himself, instead of three, I’d rather not get him started all over again.

  • christophernaze


    Fascinated by your post on your take on Mormonism. I’m guessing you are familiar with Bill Shunn’s (another former Mormon) infamous tale of “apostasy” about 8 years ago on the net.

    Thank you for all of the wonderful stories. As a parent of three, and something of a student of parenting, I can’t agree more with Comment 6: you musn’t use a place of comfort as a time out spot. The crib is a safe place and should never be used to give consequences.

    (It’s not like I haven’t made countless mistakes as a parent…)

    Thank you again for sharing the laughs and the drama. 🙂

  • Lori

    My son didn’t try to climb out of his crib either. We used the crib and later his bed as a timeout area. He never moved from that bed. And a bonus of this was that when he was put to bed at night–he never moved. I think he was almost 9 before he ever attempted to get out of the bed without permission! I think the most important thing is that they feel safe wherever they are and you are certainly providing that for Leta. Love the blog and the stories.

  • Sarah

    Hi Heather,

    I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading this site for about a year now, and in my opinion it gets more entertaining with every post. You’re such an engaging writer, and I laugh out loud when I read some of your stories. Thanks for bringing more humor to my day.

  • I could’ve written this post. Just wait till you ask her if she wants a timeout & she tells you Yes, or even requests one. The smarts learn to call your bluff. Stick with it. I’ve noticed in our circle of friends that those of us who do this and have been consistent have kids who do the timeout & say they’re sorry, etc… And the others are struggling. You’re setting good boundries and if you don’t think you can set them at two, imagine what they’ll be like at 12.

    Ours will be 3 in May & her favorite thing now is when she gets out of timeout to either give one of us a time out or one of her dolls. You can ask her why said person/doll is getting the timeout & she’ll tell you for hitting/pushing/biting, etc…They’re smart, too smart.

  • Jaap

    Oh, and my kids will sleep in their cribs for a long, long time as well. Cribs rule!

  • AmyFrances

    When I was a kid, I spent many an hour in my room for misbehaving and was sent to bed early on about a thousand occasions, and I didn’t grow up to have any crazy bed phobias.

  • LisaG

    I’m going to add my apology to you in advance for giving advice, but I have to agree with geokaz (and I do have some credentials as a parent of 3 great teenagers and a teacher for the past 10 years). When I give my seminars on communication in families, I always tell my parents that all emotions are acceptable, it’s just that a lot of behavior isn’t. So, requiring a child to apologize may be asking a child to express a feeling she may not really feel. What I find from kids who are disciplined like that is that sometimes what they learn is that “Sorry” makes all behavior okay. WHACK! Sorry. Whack! Sorry. etc. Feel free to be pissed off, kid, just don’t hit people!

  • Jaap

    Love the story! And SO recognizable. In fact, in my life I’ve never been hit in the face before, until Feline did so out of frustration.

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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