Time-out Vs A Spank on the Bottom

The twins were going through a bad patch a while ago. Tara had taken to biting Mrini at every opportunity, sometimes hard enough to scrape the skin off, or leave bite marks. This was very upsetting for Mrini, but even more upsetting for us. Amit, in particular, was worried that they might bite or otherwise be aggressive with other kids, the more so with school starting soon. I, on the other hand, believed that these honours were likely reserved specifically for each other. However, it was very upsetting to see Mrini running off in a loud flood of tears every so often. What could we do to put a stop to this?

I’m not one of the many modern moms who abhor spanking. I’m terribly short-tempered, and when the kids push me too far – which was quite often some months ago – I’m quite likely to haul off and give them one on their bottoms. With some restraint, of course. Mostly.

So, when Tara embarked on her reign of terror, my initial response was to explain to her sternly and with the aid of a few spanks that this was not on.

Before you throw the book at me, let me add that I’ve already read The Book and I can see the logic of not using violence to deliver a message of non-violence; but you can only do what you can do, and not giving them kids a shouting and a spanking from time to time when they are begging for it… It is just beyond me.

However, finally even I had to admit that it just wasn’t working. I was already trying the strategy of giving her more attention and affection whenever she wasn’t being hostile, but clearly that wasn’t enough either; there were just too few such opportunities.

So, prompted by Amit, I initiated time-out. I explained to the girls how it would work, and next time Tara attacked Mrini, I told her to go stand in a corner. She did so, howling all the while. I didn’t have the heart to keep her there long, and let her out soon enough.

Twins are frustrating; perhaps all sibling are. Mrini would forget all about their ill-will and want to go and talk to and play with Tara long before I had got over my own anger with her. So if Tara were in time-out, Mrini would hardly leave her to it.

In just one or two instances, both girls got the hang of it. Mrini, upon any perceived assault, would indicate that Tara should go to the corner, and even Tara knew when this punishment was impending. Luckily, I didn’t have to use it too often, because, whether due to this or other reasons, Tara eventually stopped her aggressive behaviour and grew more and more affectionate towards Mrini.

What I found in this entire episode is that – for me, time-out just doesn’t feel right. It feels cruel, a lot worse than a mild spank on the bottom. The latter causes a passing physical pain, but I fail to see how the former doesn’t cause a deeper psychological scar. I know that expert opinion tends towards time-out and that current wisdom is to view corporal punishment – of any kind – with shock, horror and disgust, but I don’t agree. There are obvious risks associated with corporal punishment – losing your perspective and going too far, hitting small children in an inappropriate manner, with excess force, causing lasting or permanent physical damage, even, in certain horrific cases, death. And for this reason, I would not be happy about schools allowing corporal punishment. But parents, I hope and believe, would generally be capable of exerting a modicum of restraint, except in very rare instances.

The dangers of the time-out system are much less apparent. Perhaps there aren’t any? But just think about it – treating a young child like an outcast so many times a day, or week? How can that not have a deeply negative impact on a delicate ego, on a sense of self-worth still in the process of being established? Would not a child frequently sent in to time-out begin to feel unloved, feel isolated, feel not worthy of being loved?

Physical scars can be seen, physical wounds, short of death, can be healed; but what of an ego torn to shreds; what of low self esteem that sets in at an age when the person is too young to even know what self-esteem means?

I suppose the experts know what they’re talking about. But for me, personally, time-out just seems wrong. I’m going to revert to spanking and shouting at my kids, or, now that they’ve grown up a bit, withholding treats and privileges, and I’m not going to use time-out if I can help it. After all, isn’t parenting also about deciding which experts to follow and which to ignore?

23 Responses to Time-out Vs A Spank on the Bottom

  1. Prakash says:

    I can tell you that time out and similar behaviour has lasting impact if they are done at impressionable age. It may even have a long term impact on the relationship with parents and siblings. I dont know what is the best way to handle the situation though.

  2. Sadia says:

    We use time out and spanking, and consider time out to be the lesser punishment. However, that’s just what works for our family.

    I started reading The Good Enough Parent, and the thing that stuck with me from the intro is that we have to be honest to ourselves as parents; we’re not going to effectively follow advice that isn’t in line with what we feel to be right. Kids know when we’re doing something we don’t believe in, so just do what works for your particular parent-child relationship. The experts are talking averages, not Mrini and Tara (or Jessie and Melly).

  3. Sowmya says:

    Me too keeps wondering about this, having had to babysit so many of my cousins and now my niece, whoz the most trying thing to sit :). Have never been spanked by my parents, but plenty from aunts and uncles πŸ™‚ and those are the moments I remember with bitterness even now! My dad has spanked me only twice when I caused really severe injury, but every time I did something like biting A or P the initial triumph lasted only a few minutes. And since my parents only said nice things to my siblings and showered attention on them when I did such things, I decided my attention seeking tactics weren’t working. But these things were far and few mostly coz we were too busy playing. When we had nothing to do, we had trouble. Or maybe we were plain lucky that the “indiscipline” worked well for us.

    My parents didn’t use time-out, but was very much practiced among us siblings as well as friends. My parents however had a time-out on buying something for us if we did some major ‘crime’. My cousin, on the other hand, who had all kinds of torture techniques used on him just did more and more out of bitterness and became very hardened. That’s when they start lying and cheating, which is a big problem when they are teens. So I guess its more important to foster affection for each other, and also teach them (don’t ask me how πŸ™‚ to share things with each other and friends as well. I know that really lessened the fights between us. When there is no competition and comparison, siblings tend to not fight, at least not with violence.

    I guess the rule books don’t really work, for every child is different. But I feel some spanking and lesser timeout (maybe only when its really really bad) and more talking and sharing with them is better.

  4. poupee97 says:

    Sadia: That’s a really nice way of looking at it. Thank you!

  5. poupee97 says:

    Sowmya: I hope not to use time-out or spanking as the months go by and the kids develop the kind of memory that stays. Deferring or denying treats or privileges, once kids are old enough to understand that (and these kids almost are, already), or ignoring the culprit while lavishing attention on the victim, sound like better strategies to me.

  6. Sowmya says:

    Hmm.. still thinking about this :)… the affection I shared with my siblings was the most important factor I guess. They were my friends, confidante and equals. We relied on each other from committing crimes together to sharing the punishments and we tried not to squeal on each other most times. Once we realised this, our fights were confined mostly to our selves and were less violent and we would settle it amongst ourselves unless it was a big thing. πŸ™‚

    I’ve spoken way too much gibberish… πŸ™‚

  7. Siri says:

    As a child, I was spanked, and spanked hard enough to cause physical injury. None of it was physically long lasting but the impact, pschological or otherwise, was such that I still remember those beatings with bitterness and dislike for what my mother did (my Mom was the disciplinarian). As I write this, all those old feelings come back. Every single time.

    K and I have talked about this and have agreed that some amount of spanking is going to happen, but I think I am going to leave that up to K because I know how impatient and short tempered I am and I dont want to harm A in the heat of the moment. I see the time out working more effectively for me.

  8. andaleebwajid says:

    Things like time out never work with my kids because they never listen! For Azhaan, yes spanking works, but for Saboor, he makes me so frustrated at times that of late, I’ve been hitting him quite a bit. I’ve consciously made an effort to change that now. And yes, more than time out or spanking, what really works with Saboor (who is all of ten years old and will be heading out to become a teenager in a few years! Oh man!), is the silent treatment. It worked for me when I was small and it works for Saboor too.

  9. poupee97 says:

    Sowmya: Not gibberish at all. Only, I’m still handling kids of a much younger age than you’re talking about. I really hope that I’m not still spanking my kids – ever – in a year from now – or six months, even. There have to be better ways to control them.

    Siri: Well, that’s just the kind of spanking I wasn’t talking about. Impatient as I am, I hope never to do that to my kids. I’ve spanked their little bottoms pretty solidly when they were younger, but as they’ve grown up and acquired some sense, and as they’ve reached the stage where you can reason with them or really get through to them just by being very very angry, the number of times I spank them has dropped. Drastically. I hope to stop altogether soon. So far, I have consoled myself with the thought that my kids are not going to remember any of this, but any time now is when some particularly memorable (positive or negative) event is going to get lodged in their memory for good. I don’t want it to be a spanking from me.

    Andy: Gosh, the silent treatment… my mother hates that, so I’ve never been exposed to it, and I don’t think it’s in my nature either. It’s probably not a bad approach, though. Strange how different methods work for different families.

  10. Arun says:

    I can remember at every stage every method my dad tried out and how i came back clean everytime that he can do nothing better with me except raising his own BP! πŸ˜€
    He was modest and he tried extreme ends in both worst and good methods. It never worked on those stages but it pays back now. Today if i am proud of few a things within me, i can say clearly they came from his efforts!
    I believe its not abt the good or bad methods but the intention and the continuous efforts is what paying back.

  11. Arun says:

    typo!! ..by “He was modest..” i meant, “He was modern with his ideas”

  12. mrwhatsit says:

    I must have dreamed that I left a comment here this morning.
    Or was it too long and you deleted it?
    If so, you need a spanking!
    Seriously, I thought it made sense at the time. But I wasn’t too awake. Maybe I did imagine it.
    Anyway, my folks used a hairbrush on my bottom, and when I was 15 graduated to a canoe paddle. (To be fair, it was a small one.)
    I found excessive spanking to cause resentment, a feeling of lack of control, humiliation, and anger.
    On top of that, it wasn’t effective. I struggled with low self esteem for 40 years because of it. Time out’s are good if they’re short – time flies if you’re a little kid. A little swat on the butt is probably okay, but too many parents get into the habit of spanking the hell out of their kids during the height of their anger. Not a productive strategy. I speak from experience.

  13. poupee97 says:

    Doug: You managed to leave your comment on a lesser known version of my blog: http://thetwinsandi.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/time-out-vs-spanking-which-is-the-lesser-of-the-two-evils/#comments
    I’m curious: how did you find me there? Almost nobody knows it exists, sometimes even I forget.

    Your hairbrush and canoe-paddle experiences sound horrific. I could never do that to my kids. I can’t even imagine that. And, like I said, I’m pretty impatient and can give them one on their bottoms pretty quickly… but hairbrush? Gosh, no way!

    And you’re right, of course. Excessive punishment – of any kind – is never going to be effective, and is always going to have some kind of impact on the ego and sense of self-esteem. That will be so even with, say, always denying treats for every small misdemeanour. So part of the solution is to just accept that kids will be kids and let them “get away” with things to whatever extent is acceptable.

    But it’s difficult to find the balance and to know what’s right.

    At least this entire discussion – with you and all the other commenters – has helped me to clarify my thoughts on the matter. So, thank you.

  14. mrwhatsit says:

    Oh, you have two blog sites? I did notice that this one doesn’t have the little green things next to the comments.
    I dunno how I found it…it appeared as a link in my e-mail inbox, I think. Yes, cuz I checked the “notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” box.
    Anyway: there seems to be a widespread tradition in this country of beating your kids. I know that mine was fairly typical (except for the paddle, which I karate-chopped in half instinctively the first time it was swung.) Perhaps it’s part of a European heritage, I’m not sure. I know that my Dad’s father, who emigrated here from Germany in the 1890’s, used to beat my Dad and his two brothers with a razor strap. (One of those thick leather belts barbers use to sharpen their straight-razors.)And many people I’ve talked to were beaten on the legs, if not the bottom, with leather belts, hair brushes, hands, etc., right up until their teens or later.
    It’s more controversial now, of course. But when I was a child in the ’50’s it was extremely common, almost to the point of being the universally accepted way of disciplining one’s children. At least boys; although admittedly boys seem more prone to misbehavior.
    The standard method was to put the young child over one’s knee, creating a sense of helplessness, and (depending on the parent or their mood) possibly pulling down the child’s trousers for greater impact, and then imparting 10 or more whacks – either with the palm of the hand or with some convenient object – often delivered with all the strength the adult could muster.
    Usually the father was the disaplinarian(sp?)…”wait til your father get’s home” is a nearly universally recognized phrase among my generation…but not always. I think the British may have been big on spankings, too. Although perhaps that was more restricted to corporal punishment handed out in schools, which I am entirely against. All I’m sure of is that mine was not an isolated instance. And to some extent it’s still going on today. “My father used to beat me, and it didn’t do me any harm” is the common rationalization. It must be a cultural thing.
    But thinking back on it, it really was nutty. The popularity of alcohol here may have played a role to some extent: people such as policemen, who have high-stress jobs and are more likely to drink after getting home are probably much more likely to administer corporal punishment as a way of ‘venting’ some of their stress. Then again, my father was a Purchasing Agent for Teletype corporation, and before that ran the Credit Union and was an accountant. So, I can’t really explain it’s popularity; I simply know that it was a widespread practice which probably followed it’s way over here with emigrants from certain European countries.

    I’m glad you brought up this topic. I hadn’t really given it much thought over the years – I was just glad when it stopped. But talking about it has provided some insight for me, too.
    So I thank you, too. πŸ™‚

  15. poupee97 says:

    Doug: That’s shocking to me. Horrific, in fact. Or a stronger word, if I knew one. No wonder you all wanted to leave home at the earliest opportunity.

    I don’t honestly know whether it is – or was, at some point – equally bad in India. Among my social circle and broader network of awareness, spanking on the bottom or, when kids have grown up a little, slapping on the face with an open palm is… not unusual, I suppose is the best way of putting it. Also, I’d expect it was mostly mothers who meted out punishment, fathers being too busy with matters outside the home.

    That’s without considering families with an alcoholic parent (father), where I really don’t know what’s usual. Or if anything can be called “usual”.

    Certainly what you describe sounds to me extreme and very rare. But maybe I’ve just led a very sheltered life in this regard.

  16. mrwhatsit says:

    The funny thing is is that I had a wonderful set of parents: they were intelligent, loving, creative, musically talented, (Mom was an excellent writer and sang beatifully, Dad could listen to a tune once and play it on the piano,) etc. My mom had a great sense of humor, very similar to my own, and when I got older I could make her laugh at will. My dad was extremely good natured, and had a very good heart. (Which would describe my mom, too.) He’d help sickly neighbors, give things away rather than sell them, and was usually very willing to calmly explain to me the goods and bad’s of proper behavior. The spankings usually seemed to result when I’d done something to upset my mother, or was acting disrespectful. It got to where they were expected and just a normal part of growing up.
    They were 33 and 41 years old, respectively, when I was born, an only child and the first biological child for each of them. I was showered with plenty of affection; overloaded with Christmas and Birthday presents every year; and generally “spoiled.”
    But there was just this thing, this concept of discipline, that must have followed them on it’s way over from Europe. They were at a loss as to what to do to prevent me from engaging in certain ‘bad’ behaviors other than spanking. They knew of no alternatives. (I was trying to remember the reason for even one of them, and it’s odd: I can’t recall a single thing that I was spanked for. Oh, one just came to me. My Mother called me from the other part of the house, and I was engaged in playing with toys or something, resentful of having to discontinue my activity, and responded with a loud “Whaddaya want?” (what do you want?) My dad apparently bristled at my tone, shouted “What did you say? Don’t you use that tone of voice with your mother! Now come in here!” I think I’d picked up the phrase from a t.v. show, probably a cartoon, but I’m fairly sure that it resulted in being spanked.

    I know my Mother, who’s ancestors had emigrated from the Netherlands (Holland) was never spanked as a child, nor were either or her sisters. She must have picked it up from my Dad.
    I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of German families. Well, and Irish and Italian. And those three groups, from what I remember, were all disciplined similarly to myself.
    Other ethnic groups, such as Jewish families, seemed to be less inclined to spank their kids. So I think it tended to be much more common among families of certain specific ethnicities. (sp?)

    But attitudes have changed greatly over the past 4 or 5 decades. A mother seen abusing a child in a Supermarket, for example, might well be reported to the Department of Children and Family Services, who might then swoop down to determine if the abuse at home was sufficient to warrant removing the child from the home; or sending the parent(s) off to a child rearing class.

    All I know is, if I’d ever had the pleasure of having children, I like to think that I wouldn’t have engaged in the type of punishments meted out to me by my own parents.
    But again – I don’t blame them. My father was just carrying on a tradition he’d learned from his father, which had undoubtedly been being passed along for generations.
    I think I would have taken an approach more along the lines of what you describe. A smack on the bottom once in a while, a stern ‘mommy voice’ (or daddy voice), and, when they got a little older, a reasoned explanation as to why a given behavior was unacceptable. Oh, and lots of positive reinforcement when the child did something well, or behaved selflessly.

  17. poupee97 says:

    Well, it still is indigestible to me.

    I asked Amit, and he thought similar to me: that in our circles, most parents spank or slap kids – open hand, on the bottom or across the face for older kids. Also, mostly it’s the mothers. And mostly impulsive and immediate, like me. Mine is like, “I-told-you-don’t-do-that!Whack!” Not like, “Come here, I’m going to spank you now,” much less like, “just you wait, I’m going to spank you as soon as I get done with whatever I’m donig now” (and much much less than “daddy will spank you when he gets home” or whatever).

    Oh well. Whatever. The result of this whole discussion is that I am resolved to use spanking less and less and less till I stop altogether. And no time-outs either. There has got to be some other way of doing this.

  18. Sadia says:

    Our daycare uses a method where the discipliner gets down to child’s eye level, gently holds her shoulder, and explains to the child precisely what behaviour was unacceptable and lets her know that the adult is disappointed. It’s not usually my style, but was very effective during a tantrum today.

    My twins discipline each other with the stern statement, “That’s not okay”, which is as effective as any disciplinary method I’ve tried.

  19. poupee97 says:

    Sadia: Oh if only I could find the patience and wisdom to do that which your daycare does. πŸ™‚

    Your twins seem to have the same idea as my twins. πŸ˜€

  20. mrwhatsit says:

    One last word: First, that daycare method sounds great if it works, and it sounds like it would, although perhaps not with every child.
    And lastly, I spoke with a coworker yesterday who was born and raised in Poland. He’d worked as a taxicab driver there, has been in every European country and his knowledge of various European countries is formidable. He emigrated here 20 years ago, in his early 30’s. I asked him if he’d been spanked as a child.
    He laughed. “Oh, yes! Oh, brother!” He went on to explain that the usual procedure was to be bent over the back of a chair, pants pulled down. I asked him what his father would use for the spanking. “The belt…the belt was not so bad.. it was the…” – he searched for the right English word for a few moments…”It was …like the stick.” “Like a bamboo cane?” I asked? “No, like…from the tree.” “Like a thin branch of a tree with the leaves stripped off?” “Yes, yes. Many times it broke the skin, left bleeding on me.” He pointed to the back of his legs “I still have some scars…”
    I asked him if spanking was common in other European countries. “Well, that’s the old fashioned way, not any more. But when I grow up, in every European country spanking was used. Especially in the Eastern European ones.” He went on to explain that the possible exception was Holland (Netherlands). “But not any more. Now if someone sees a neighbor hit their kid, they call police.”

    Now, I must add one thing. This is one of the happiest people I know. He’s always smiling and joking around. He goes to church every week, and has a wonderful Polish wife and 2 extremely intelligent, well mannered, and likable sons who are both excelling at their endeavors. I mean, this guy is very level headed, happy, tolerant, stable fellow with absolutely no problems with self-esteem.

    So, there you have it. I can’t explain it. He spanked his own children, too. He only used the palm of his hand, not whips or anything. And he ended the conversation by telling me that now that after his children were grown, they went to him and thanked him. “They said, Papa, all those times you spanked me I thought I hated you for it. But you know what? You were right every time, and I was wrong. And you know what? They thanked me for it; they thanked me.”

    Isn’t it a shame that children don’t come with a guidebook on how to raise them?

  21. mrwhatsit says:

    By the way, the way I found your other blog is by going to your yahoo.360 blog, and following the steps. It takes one directly there.

  22. poupee97 says:

    Doug: Still hearing about your friend’s experience and how common it was only makes me sad. Even if they grew up ok and even if they retrospectively felt the spanking was a good thing (which is not a given, going by some comments here), I feel sad for the bygone generations of children who “got it” on that scale.

  23. mrwhatsit says:

    Having never experienced a childhood which did not include “spanking” (or abuse in all of it’s permutations with the objective being to teach one’s progeny good behavior), I find it nearly impossible to assume an attitude of true objectivity.

    But I strongly intuit that I agree with you.

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