Old-fashioned discipline

Ariel is thinking about the punishments of years past, and how parenting philosophies have changed since she was a kid.

By Ariel Brewster
Old-fashioned discipline

Photo by Ariel's mom

Here in the Today’s Parent office we think about childrearing and discipline strategies a lot — definitely more than your average workplace. My co-workers share their experiences and trade advice, mom-to-mom, which is really helpful: Right now I’m working on a story about the different parenting philosophies between toddler time-outs and time-ins. (What’s a time-in, you ask? Look for the story in our July issue!)
So when I visited my own parents over the long weekend, I was totally amused to stumble across a photo of my little sister being subjected to one of my mother’s go-to discipline strategies: The corner. When my sister or I misbehaved (usually for being "fresh") we were sent to the corner for what felt like an hour — but was probably less than five or 10 minutes. We were told to stand with our nose pushed as far into the wall crevice as possible! And it was always the same corner — the one between the guest bedroom and our coat closet.
Nowadays, I don’t think any expert would recommend this strategy. (Sorry Mom!) But I know it DID, in fact, work. I remember feeling really ashamed of my behaviour — my embarrassment felt like it was burning through the back of my head — because the time-out spot was in full view of the kitchen table, where the rest of the family sat. (I think most of my time-outs happened around dinnertime, after I refused to eat whatever my dad had served.) And, as this photo proves, sometimes my mom even took a funny photo of us, mid-punishment! Total humiliation.
In my parents’ defense, they never spanked us or grounded us. We never had a curfew, and I don’t think they ever took away TV or cartoons. (Maybe they took away dessert once or twice?) So they weren’t entirely old-fashioned when it came to punishments; in fact I think they were fairly open-minded. They pretty much let my sister and I learn from our own mistakes.
I also remember that sending me to my room never worked, because I loved being alone in my room! It wasn’t a punishment at all. Even if I’d been told not to play with any of my toys, I would sit on the floor and look at my Barbies arranged on the floor, while happily making up stories in my head. (Yup, I was a weird kid.) So the corner was way more effective for me. In contrast, my mom says that when she was a kid, being sent to her room was absolutely devastating — she hated being away from the group.
I’m learning that while discipline strategies may have changed — from the ‘50s, when my mom was growing up, to the ‘80s, when I was growing up, to present-day — one thing about parenting has stayed the same: What works for one kid or family might not work for another.
What old-fashioned discipline strategies do you remember from your childhood? (And did your mom ever photograph you in the middle of a time-out!?)

This article was originally published on Apr 11, 2012

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