Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When Annabella misbehaves, she goes to baby jail for 45 seconds. We swing a baby gate around so that she's essentially trapped in a little hallway area and let her scream her head off about it. (I say essentially trapped because she could crawl under the gate if she really wanted to.) She mainly gets punished for climbing onto tables, standing on chairs repeatedly, or biting/hitting.

While I hate hate hate baby jail, it's been really very effective for us. And it's hard to feel too bad about it since she gets locked up for all of 45 seconds. (Soon enough, we want to move towards a non-gated timeout, but we just couldn't make that work the last time we tried.) Plus, we almost never have to punish her (not including the first weekend we put her in baby jail, as it took her a little bit to learn, and she was being STUBBORN). So all in all, it's been a good thing for us.

I feel like this punishment is in line with what the pediatrician has told us, which was basically that we should ignore behavior we don't like as long as it's not dangerous or aggressive (like biting). For behavior we see as being dangerous or overly aggressive, he said to pick her up, put her in a corner, say no sternly, and walk away, ignoring her. He gave us this advice awhile back though, and she seemed to have outgrown it. Which is why we had to implement baby jail at all. (During her weekend of constant climbing, we couldn't ignore her long enough to be effective as she'd be making a beeline right back up on the table. It was ridiculous.)

So that's the background. Now here's my question: at what age do we start punishing behavior that's not dangerous, but still undesirable?

For instance, I can tell Annabella to come to me a billion times when I want to put sunscreen on her, but she runs and runs. I know that she knows what I'm asking for, she just doesn't want to do it. So every morning, after asking her repeatedly to come to me, I end up chasing her around and pinning her into corners to lather her up.

Is she old enough that she should be punished for this? I just don't know. Baby jail seems extreme for this, but at the same point, running from me when I'm calling her to come to me could be potentially dangerous in other situations. I could try the route where I just ignore her until she comes to me, but I just don't have the time for that in the morning. And I'm honestly not even sure she'd remember what it was that I wanted by the time she figured out I was ignoring her.

So those of you with older kids, what did you do?


Jenni said...

OK, so I'd say she's a little young for punishment for this- like she wouldn't know that the punishment was b/c she didn't listen. You want a punishment to change behavior but if she can't make the connection, the lesson is lost, kwim? So, to eliminate the issue, could you slather her up, at least part of the way, when she's tethered, like in her car seat or in her high chair eating breakfast? And on the flip, to get her into the habit of listening, can you praise her to death when she does listen and obey. That is praising expected behavior which is usually a no-no, but during a time that you're trying to change behavior, praising the expected stuff is OK I think. The sunscreen thing is two issues: she isn't listening and you need to complete a task (slather her up). At this age, I would try to eliminate the issue by trying to complete the task in a different way and work on listening issues when you aren't as pressed for time or in need of completing a task.

joyce_kasnyik said...

You need to read the book "Children are from Heaven". It is the parenting advice Joe and I used with Koral (and she wasn't always an angel!). It is all about being the parent but making her feel as if she is making the decision to do the right thing. Don't be afraid to bribe for good behavior either! Read the book-it is awesome!