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?