Tuesday 2 September 2008

The Naughty Chair and other fairy stories

So, the Naughty Chair has moved into our house. It may seem like just an ordinary chair to most people. In fact, it is just an ordinary chair - to most people. You can sit on it, drink your tea, eat your lunch, or even - if you find yourself with some unexpected free time and an impulse to organise on your hands - go through your pile of admin and consign that one pile into smaller piles. You know; 'dealt with' (in the nick of time, normally); 'to be dealt with' (I'll do it tomorrow - honest); 'rubbish' (if Johnny Boden sends me one more catalogue I shall scream); and 'oh thank god, that can go in husband's pile' (which rather speaks for itself).

Can you tell that both the Boys were back in school today, by the way?

Anyway, back to the chair. It's an ordinary dining table chair. But to Boy #2, it is 'That Naughty Naughty Chair'.

We don't use it every day. We don't even use it every other day. But when we use it, all our neighbours and the passers by on the street know about it. This is not a house with a handy step, you see, that can be relabelled 'the Naughty Step' in times of need. It's a problem, when you live in a flat. If I was more organised - i.e. the sort of person who never let her admin pile build up - I would have gone out and bought a mini step to be consigned to a corner, to be sat upon by small bottoms in disgrace, somewhere out of the way. Clearly, I'm not that person. So we are reduced to simply moving a chair from our dining table and putting it by the front door. Which is why everyone in a 500 yard radius knows when Boy #2 is sitting on it.

Well, I say 'sitting'. Standing, often. Hanging off the edge, occassionally. Swaying backwards and forwards on, sliding off, falling off. The actual 'sitting' bit doesn't happen as often as I would like. He hasn't quite got the hang of the whole naughty chair concept yet, you see. Or at least, he pretends not to have.

This evening, for example, during dinner.

Boy #2: "Train. Need train."
Me: "Boy #2 - stay at the table please, and finish your dinner."
Boy #2: "Yes. Train first."
I should say here that Boy #2, given the opportunity, will amass as many toys as possible on the table around him to amuse himself whilst he eats. We don't have that wide a table. Food gets spilled, cups get knocked over, people - namely, me - get wet. So I try to discourage the greater part of the toy chest adorning our meal times.
Me: "No, not train first, Boy #2, come back to the table!"
Boy #2: "Wait! Wait! Thomas! Polar Express!"
Boy #1: "Do you want your train set, Boy #2, is that it?"
Me: "Please, Boy #1. Don't encourage him. Boy #2, come back to the table" (note the fact he is very much not sitting at the table by this time. A word from me and he does as he likes). "If you don't come back to the table you will have to sit in the Naughty Chair."
Boy #2: "Noooooo! Not the Naughty Chair!"
Me: "So sit down please."
Boy #2: (running laughing and giggling into the sitting room, clearly thinking the danger of the Naughty Chair has receded). "In a moment!"
Me: "That's it. Naughty Chair, now."
Boy #2: "Noooooo!!!!!!"
General moaning and groaning whilst I carry him - and the chair - over to the front door.
Me: "Stay there please, until I come and get you."
I sit down, determinedly not looking at him. When I glance at Boy #1 I see him laughing at his brother who is by now standing on the chair trying to pull himself up the coat rack.
Me: "Sit down please Boy #2. Boy #1, stop encouraging him and eat some fish, please."

Time ticks past.

For those of you who have been living in a vacuum since SuperNanny started her reign of terror, and don't know how this form of 'discipline' (yeah, right) works, the idea is that you install the child on the chair / stair / sofa somewhere away from the action for the same amount of minutes that they have in years. So, Boy #1 gets 4 minutes, Boy #2 gets 2. If they leave the allocated spot early - and this is the kicker - you have to start the clock all over again. Whilst initially this may seem like water off a ducks back, they do eventually get the message that this means they are in serious trouble, and protest. In Boy #2's case, extremely loudly. At the end of the allotted time, the person who has put the child there goes over, asks them if they understand why they are there, asks for an apology (if not already offered), kisses, hugs, makes up, moves on. Punishment over.

It works - sort of. Boy #2 will normally behave if threatened with this. As they get older though, I can see that this probably won't continue to cut the mustard. But anyway...

1 minute, 30 seconds later - Boy #2 gets off his chair and runs to the table.
Me: "Boy #2 - back to the chair."
Boy #2 laughs.
Me: "Mama is not laughing. Sit here until I come and get you."

Time ticks past. But only for a minute, before I look up from the table, and see he has pushed the chair up to the door and is dismantling the letter box.

Me: "Boy #2. Please sit still."

He gets down again and walks over to a book, picking it up and taking it back to the chair. This is not what the Naughty Chair is all about, so I have to remove the book, endure his wrath (never get a flat with wooden floors if you can help - the sound bounces all over the place) and start again.

This goes on for 20 minutes before he makes the full 2 minute time period and we can move on.

Repeat after me: I AM a good mother. I CAN control my children. I DO know where the corkscrew is.


  1. I tried instituting a naughty step when #2 was about 4, but his little sister went and sat next to him, and I found the two of them together having a fine old time laughing and joking. So then I tried a naughty room ie the guest bedroom, which has nothing in it of any fun at all, nothing but a bed really, and found him having a great time playing pirates under the duvet, and he wouldn't come out when the allotted time was up. So then I tried a naughty chair, but as we didn't have a spare chair (hence the false starts with the naughty step and the naughty room in the first place), I kept finding I needed it as soon as I'd put him on it, and he was totally confused as to why I was moving the chair around, and why it was sometimes ok to sit on it and sometimes not.

    Like you, I could have gone out and bought a little step stool, but I somehow knew that I wouldn't be very good on following through on this one, and abandoned the project. Sorry Supernanny.

    I hope you are more successful!

  2. wow, that's really funny. No experience with this yet but will try to retain knowledge until 2 years from now is needed

  3. And here I am laughing over here - because - the cat doesn't stay in the naughty chair for even half a minute!

  4. Love it! Keep with it - it will pay off in the end. We have trouble with number 3 staying at the table too - one night he wandered off and not one of us noticed!

  5. haha that's very funny. We lead parallel lives re boys on/off the naughty chair except ours in a naughty stair, but like iota whiochever boy is on it, I always find the other one stitting there with him within minutes offering trains and trucks as condolence prizes. Oldest boy said to me yesterday on his way to the step, "Not the naughty step again mummy. Daddy says it doesn't work."
    he had a point. Rumbled.

  6. Here is the joy of having skinny sons, my boy #2 was very difficult to keep on the naughty 'whatever' so I re-thought the whole concept and got the old high chair out and strapped him into that! Harness done up at the back of course. Oh the shame of being confined to the BABY Chair. Worked a treat though lol! Used a kitchen timer with my Boy #1 as he was a screamer. If he started up again before the 'ping' I just re-set it until we had 2 minutes of quiet. Nasty, nasty Mummy he-he-he!

  7. So - I sat my 5 year old on the bottom stair this evening as he'd whacked me in the face with a (painless, but disrespectful) helium balloon. A moment later he said, "Mom, you do realise that this is giving me time time to think about how not to really annoy you next time I hit you in the face with it." A bit like sending juveniles to prison only to learn how to become
    better criminals.

    NO, younger mothers, the trick (with actions that are to be prevented rather than unforeseen) is to warn them that you want something done or attended to on, or before, the count of three. After which time, you make them do it with you. (Notice, no force, threats or screaming on your part.)

    Ergo, they WILL be doing it (eg. "Come here) under their own steam - or yours. My 15 and almost 13 year old still move when I start counting and they have no idea what might happen when we get past "3" - because it never gets there.

    Try it.

  8. So glad you also find the Naughty Chair a trial. I am attempting to use it with Littleboy 1 but he has already called my bluff by saying that he WANTS to go and sit on it.....

  9. Never used it! I think Super Nanny is the scariest person ever on TV (perhaps alongside Barbara Woodhouse) and I am lost in admiration that you manage to go through the whole palaver without collapsing into a heap of giggles! We tried the counting for a bit - 2 and a half, 2 and three quarters, 2 and four-fifths.... you get the picture. t.x

  10. I'm with Valley Girl. When I tell my little girl her behaviour is not acceptable she jumps in before I can say any more "shall I go and sit on the time out step?" SHE ENJOYS IT. She sits there calling her brother to come join her like it's a fun thing!

  11. Having read these comments, I feel very reassured that I am not the only one for whom the naughty chair wasn't the ultimate answer. But perhaps we're all missing something. Maybe Supernanny missed out the bit where you put spikes on the seat, or plug it in, or something

  12. I've tried this with Jonathan and he simply keeps trying to get out of the chair and laughs because he thinks it is a game. I think I am going to get a specific chair set aside for this, though...that might help.

    Hang in there. It will get better....right?

  13. I do hope the corkscrew was used (on wine not boy#2) MH

  14. Iota, I totally sympathise with the needing the chair dilemma. Poor Boy #2 doesn't even have the luxury of a dedicated naughty chair, just any that happen to come to hand from the dining room table. And it's all very well, but what do you do when you're in the park, say, or on a crowded tube? Huh? Huh? (Am persevering - for now - in any case...)

    SB, no doubt by the time two years have passed they will have come up with something else.

    Aims - not sure that cats are the perfect subjects for this type of discipline...

    Sam, with 3 I can definitely see that happening. As long as he hadn't made his way to the wine rack though...

    M/M; I hate it when they gang up on me like that - they're just too cute to tell off...

    Sharon, that would have worked - but we gave our high chair away 3 weeks ago. Not good timing, now I come to think of it.

    EPM, sounds good - or would if Boy #2 didn't just laugh at me and run away.

    VG, we had that with Boy #2 too. But persevere - it was just bravado in our case. Once he realised that he didn't get to say when he got on and off, the novelty of going there himself soon disappeared...

    KP - there was a lot of head turning on my part to disguise the hysterical giggles, I must admit.

    Tara - oh, girls. I can't give you any advice on GIRLS. They are much harder to deal with...

    J's Mommy, yes it will. I promise. Though maybe not just yet...

    MH - actually not. I hate to drink alone. Eat a whole bar of Green and Blacks, however? That is definitely a solo activity...

  15. PottyM, you need table manner cards! Oh yes, full-on, LAMINATED, pictoral (for pre-readers)table manner cards. One of those cards will read, 'No toys at the table'. So as you produce your coloured-in, lovingly made (and laminated) 'no toys at the table' card, you can grin brightly and say, 'look! Boy #2, you can't have any of those things at the table becoz what is one of our table manners? oh yes! it's 'no toys at the table''. Therefore, you will avoid all need for the naughty dining chair. Simple huh?

    Yes, i have plumbed the home-laminated table manner cards in my desperation to maintain order at the table.

    what was i saying further up your blog about freak mothers on the school run? I think i am one of them.

    time for more wine.

  16. Just in case you're paying attention, and for professional writer's pride, may I add that it should have read, 'Yes, i have plumbed the home-laminated table manner card DEPTHS in my desperation to maintain order at the table'

    I don't wish to give the impression that i somehow managed to plumb the cards into the water mains as part of my table manner discipline.

    I am leaving right now.

  17. IS it time for more wine Pig? Is there any left, more to the point? Just kidding - that's a great idea, Though I rather think I might hold onto that one for when he can read.

    And you are so not a freak mummy. Or no more than I am. I pull the fuse when I want my boys to sleep, remember?


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