Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.”

  • I think naughty feels good to say because it really doesn’t exist (save for naughty bars) in our everyday language.

    My two year old had a perfectly two year old tantrum that i photographed. It was strangely satisfying to record it that way.

  • I think naughty feels good to say because it really doesn’t exist (save for naughty bars) in our everyday language.

    My two year old had a perfectly two year old tantrum that i photographed. It was strangely satisfying to record it that way.

  • Just wanted to tell you that I find you so hilarious that, while reading this post aloud to my housemate, I had to stop after each paragraph because we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe (and thus, I couldn’t get more words out!).

    Thanks for adding some fun to my day! My housemate loves it too, and she’s not a regular reader (blog reading isn’t much her thing), but she does love when I share something funny you’ve said on your blog. To the point where I just say, “know that dooce website I like?” and she starts giggling and then says, “yeah”. So keep up the awesomeness!

    And I think you’re a great parent!

  • Not that you need any further parenting advice, especially from more internet hacks who have yet to know the utter wrath that comes from the person you gave breath to spitting in your face (if she hasn’t done that yet, don’t worry. It will come.)But I’ve worked as a behavioral therapist, nanny, teacher and daycare director for over ten years and one of the things I strongly advocate is never forcing children to say they are sorry. Certainly suggesting it and insisting that it is the polite thing to do is appropriate, but when you force kids to say sorry they learn it is something you just say, not something you have to mean. When they are sorry, they’ll say it and mean it and then you can give them lots of positive feedback for the fact that they give a shit. I also worry about the crib as punishment area issue- safe place, only associate with sleep and positive, happy, preferably SLEEPY thoughts, yada yada.

    Raising children is alarming similar to raising dogs- ever notice that? Except it takes alot longer and kids will test your position as top dog long before your mutt ever will. And putting Leta in the submissive position or spraying her with water isn’t exactly effective punishment, although it might be a hell of a good time on a Saturday night.

  • I can’t see why anyone would stop using the crib until it stops being a safe and effective baby containment device. Who are these people who would be giving you shit about that?

    I love Super Nanny too. But like a previous commenter, I personally have avoided using the crib as a punishment place for my kid out of fear it might make her resist going there at bedtime. I banish mine to the end of our long, long front hallway instead.

  • Our daughter is still in her crib, she loves it and doesn’t try to get out. She’ll be three soon….
    I don’t know how I’ll sleep knowing she’s loose in her room, I’m sure I’ll get past it, somehow.

    We also use the crib for timeouts, have been doing it for some time with no consequences (knock on wood).

    I love supernanny!!!

  • curcord

    Here is hope for your future! Our 28 mos old daughter (very defiant and not afraid of anything or anyone) has been spending time out in her room – now I just say “go to your room” and she runs screaming to her room and slams her door. She hasn’t figured out how to work the childproof door knob yet…so in her desire to hurt my feelings and demonstrate her anger, she has muffled the screaming I wasn’t really interested in listening too anyhow. Maybe you can move Leta from a crib to a bed…child proof door locks are fantastic containment tools.

  • Ahhh the Supernanny. Meh. We like duct tape. Less work.

  • The Preschooler Formerly Known as Busy Baby (nearly 4) still sleeps in a crib. Of course, he can now let himself in and out and change the sheets when necessary.

  • The terrible twos are looking so wonderful! It is so hard to envision my wonderfully happy infant acting out like that. But, I know it is the cycle of life. Thanks for giving me a peephole into my future.

    I keep telling my son’s pediatrician, usually through tears “I don’t mean to be such a freak, but I was an au pair for 6-9 year olds. I know nothing of children in any other age bracket. I need your HELP.”

  • Angela

    Havanese; Well said!!

  • Angela

    Time out is wonderful. It gives them a punishment and the parent a moment to walk away and not through their son or daughter through to wall.(this is only a joke, I wouldn’t through my boys through the wall. I might seriously consider it… but this is why time out is wonderful)
    And I also loved that you told the story with a hint of “insturctional video” in the tone. Thank you for helping all of the people out there who may not be aware of this wonderful parenting tool. Now who’s the “Bad MOM”…ass holes!! 🙂

  • My twins slept in their cribs until they were well past 2 years old! It kept them contained. And good luck with the time-outs, but don’t feel to bad if you wind up beating her with a wooden spoon 😉

  • Emilie

    The bed and the bedroom as time-out places are usually not recommended: you don’t want your kid to associate punishment and anything that is sleep related because the kid could end up with going-to-sleep issues. Also, it isn’t advised to put children for time-out in a room where there are toys and distractions: you want the punishment to be as boring as it gets. Usually, with younger kid, just a naughty corner/step/chair/carpet (Supernanny did them all!) works in a place that you can watch the kid but that isn’t filled with interesting stimuli. And you have to win the “battle” of enforcing the naughty corner even if it takes forever because if not, you teach the kid that struggling for long enough will get her/him out of the time-out at some point. Easily said, but not easily done, indeed, but that is what conditionning tells us! Fortunately, behavioural sciences also tells us that eventually, kids learn that there isn’t a way to escape the time-out, so they do it less reluctantly (as in without their parent holding them in a headlock on the naughty step).

    I don’t think that your post was designed to trigger a flood of education advices (especially not from a 23 year old without kids!), but there, I couldn’t resist using my developmental psychologist-to-be knowledge on this one.

    By the way, Leta looks like a wonderful kid. What is her model number so I can order a similar model at the baby factory when I feel like becoming a mom?

  • My mother-in-law says a four-year-old is like a two-year-old who knows better. Enjoy two-year-old behavior while Leta’s two…otherwise you’ll be tempted to stick her to a wall of velcro the whole year while she’s four!

  • I love the nanny! I hope our first child (due sept 30th) takes after my husband – he is easy going and happy and was as a baby. If the kid is like me, we might have to call in professional help.

  • HannahB

    PS: I like that your reaction to Leta when she’s being too cute for words AND when she’s being a terror is the same: wanting to eat her. Get this woman a PopTart!

  • 57 comments before this one and not one suggested a good prompt swat on the behind…interesting. In fact of all the blogs, forums, and general websites that I visit this site either has the nicest visitors or it’s so heavily edited that only “kiss butt” comments are allowed.

    I thoroughly enjoy this site and promptly read each article as it appears in my bloglines, but for someone who enjoys freedom of topic, I hope people with opposing views aren’t scared to add their opinion.

  • Hey, no guilt trips from me on the crib. My son is 2 and a half and his doctor said to keep him in the crib as long as he’ll stand it. He sleeps better than pretty much any other kid we know, so we’re not messing with success.

    We did, however, stop using the crib as a disciplinary holding pen for some of the reasons other posters have shared. We have instead instituted the “naughty chair”, which necessitates one of us holding him down in the chair most times, but I think it actually works better because it is more unpleasant for him. We’ve even gotten to the point where we can invoke the spectre of the naughty chair and have it change his behavior.

    Of course, that’s today. Tomorrow will be different.

  • Huzband and I have two kitties… I’m wondering if time outs will work for them as well. And if an English nanny can bring me an intervention…

  • “BRING IT, PERSON WHO READILY FORGETS THAT MY INFANT LOVE IS CONDITIONAL.”

    and

    “…and it was then that she came to the realization that we did many, many months ago: sometimes cannibalism makes sense.”

    Heather, you have an amazing gift!

    Thanks for the laughter & insights.

  • JC

    that’s awesome. we too are fans of the nanny, and her time out method. our young’un isn’t yet old enough to need time outs, but i’m sure she’s rapidly approaching that stage. i’m sure it’ll be an interesting experience each and every time.

  • HannahB

    I was JUST thinking to myself today that I’d like to hear about how you discipline Leta. There IS something sexy about the nanny… I think it’s the way she says “naughty.” Is it even possible to say “naughty” in an unsexy way?

    Thanks for writing, Heather. Your site is my favorite guilty pleasure when I’m supposed to be working on English papers — I’m sure you remember those days. You make me smile, and you inspire me to keep writing.

    Hannah
    Charlottesville, Va.

  • Oh, I so feel for you. My daughter is 2 1/2 and I swear I spend all day saying the same things over and over: don’t scream, don’t hit me, don’t bite me, don’t spit, don’t throw things, etc., etc., etc. We do time out, and it was working for a while, but lately she’s been going through this weird agressive phase where nothing seems to work. I want to sell her to the zoo. Today in one of my classes at BYU some guy started spouting off that line about how “motherhood is our highest calling and gets us closer to God” blah blah. The professor and I, who were the only moms in there, pounced on him for being an ass. I think it’s helped me understand why God is so angry and vengeful. Either that or I’m closer to God because I’m always praying that I won’t throw my child out the window.