From Huff/Post50: Who puts baby in a corner? Not this grandma

This post, sans the photos, was originally published on Huff/Post50, my first post as an official Huffington Post blogger.

Different grandmas, different styles

My favorite grandma never spanked me. She also never yelled at me, reprimanded me, restricted me.

My not-so-favorite grandma? Well, she never spanked me, either. She did, though, once make me drink grape juice I didn’t want. I immediately vomited up the purple stuff; Grandma immediately yelled at me for doing so. From that moment on, my “Favorite Grandma” title went to my other grandma—and my “Least Favorite Juice” designation went to grape.

When it came to being disciplined by my grandmothers, things could have been far worse. Back in the day—yes, that day—it was common for grandparents, heck, even neighbors and strangers, not to spare the rod when they deemed necessary, even when it came to children not their own.

I got lucky. Not in that I was a child above reproach and reprimand, but that my grandmothers pretty much left such things to my parents. Except when it came to drinking one’s juice.

Now that I’m a grandma, I consider those grandparenting styles, the disciplinary actions of my grandmothers, as well as the way the grandparents to my own children—my parents, my in-laws—conducted themselves with their grandkids.

The (step) patriarch of my husband’s family regularly swatted upside the heads those grandkids who committed minor infractions. I often wondered as a new member of my husband’s family if his step-dad’s popping kids for this and that was how he became known as “Pop” to the family.

My own mother, grandma to my three daughters, didn’t pop grandkids upside the head, but she often spanked on the rears the children of my younger sisters, regularly made them sit in the corner for misbehaving.

My sister-in-law and my sisters were okay with Pop and Grandma coming down hard on their kids. Both grandparents played a prominent role in helping the single moms raise the kiddos, so that may be why they were given more authority. It worked for their families. To each his own.

I, though, wasn’t okay with such disciplining of my own.

Not that my children were perfect by any means, or that they didn’t deserve to be disciplined upon breaking bad. But if the discipline necessary went beyond a stern look or word, perhaps a slight swat upon a diapered bottom for safety’s sake, we had an unspoken “hands off” policy. Nobody puts my babies in a corner—except for their dad and me.

Yet my husband and I didn’t put our kids in the corner. Nor did we pop them on the head now and then. We did, though, hand out some fairly strict disciplinary action when our daughters needed it. We sent them to their rooms, and we took away privileges. On occasion, we even spanked them.

When it comes to my grandsons, though—ages four-and-a-half and one-and-a-half— spanking, shaming, popping upside one’s head just isn’t my style. I know some grandmas do it, but I won’t. I simply cannot imagine inflicting the slightest bit of pain upon my grandsons.

That doesn’t mean I’ve not inflicted emotional pain, though. Unintentionally, I assure you, just as my not-so-favorite grandma did with the grape juice.

Case in point: As a long-distance grandma, I pack a pretty hefty lot of luggage when I visit my grandsons. In that luggage is always what we call my “Grandma Bag,” filled with crafts, books, and fun to fill the time with the boys. The rule is that my grandsons must wait until I share treasures from my bag, not go into it themselves.

Also in my luggage—as surely applies to many a grandparent—is medication. Pills and more that should never, ever be touched by little ones and one of the reasons my grandsons are not allowed in “Gramma’s room” unless I’m with them.

Most can likely guess what happened: I entered my room one morning to find my oldest grandson sitting on the floor, happily going through the goodies in my Grandma Bag, the bag that had been in my suitcase, right beside those other things he was to never, ever, touch. He peered up at me with a grin over all the fun Gramma had in store—then immediately realized the mistake he’d made. He burst into tears, I calmly reminded him that he’s to never, ever touch Gramma’s things without first asking.

After lots of tears from him and lots of lecturing from me, my grandson apologized for the bad choice he’d made. I, of course, forgave him. The question is, did he forgive me? I know firsthand that grudges toward grandmas can run deep, and I didn’t want my grandson to forever hold against me the Grandma Bag incident.

Regardless of whether my grandson forever revokes from me the “Favorite Grandma” designation or not, I hope he will eventually realize my response could have been far different, could have included a spanking.

With the holidays upon us, what other grandmas might do may be tested. Families will gather, kids will act up. Some grandparents will spank or send kids into corners, some parents will bristle. Or not. To each his own.

I just know that when it comes to my own, nobody puts my grandbabies in a corner—except, maybe, their own mom and dad.

Today's question:

What is your experience with grandparents disciplining your children or you disciplining your own grandchildren?

Megan's magical method

One of the highlights of my visit to the desert was seeing that Megan's college education is truly paying off—at home.

You see, Megan has this amazing technique for keeping Bubby in line and all I can figure is that it was part of her early childhood education curriculum because it sure isn't something she gleaned from me.

What is Megan's Magical Method? She offers Bubby the opportunity "to make good choices." We're talking a two-year-old here. A two-year-old who understands the ultimatum and usually—happily! without coercion!—makes a good choice.

Bizarre, if you ask me, but it works.

For example, Bubby will be eating breakfast and after two bites he'll decide to drop his fruit, waffles, whatever onto the floor so Roxie, the dog, will eat it. Megan/Mom will warn him not to do it again, but Bubby will scrunch up his face into a "yeah, just watch this" smirk and continue dropping goodies to the dog.

So Megan whips out the big guns. In her calm but firm teacher voice she says, "Looks to me like someone's making bad choices. Are you making bad choices, Bubby? We like good choices, don't we?" Instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY, Bubby grins from ear to ear, says "Yes!" and plops the piece of food into his mouth instead of over the edge of his highchair tray.

When Bubby would obviously need to hit the sack and teetered on the edge of a tantrum, Megan went through the same "good choices versus bad choices" spiel. Right away, Bubby would grin and trot off to put on his pajamas, oh-so proud of himself for making a good choice.

Sheer magic! And I don't understand why it works. With a two-year-old. Yet it works again and again. Again and again I would watch in amazement, trying unsuccessfully to catch the sleight of hand.

How does she do it?

Now some of you may worry what happens when a bad choice by Bubby prevails, that maybe that's why it works—because Bubby is scared to death of Mom's reaction when he makes a bad choice. Does Megan yell and scream? Spank his diaper-padded bottom? Bind him with duct tape and toss him out as a super-size snack for the desert-roaming javelinas?

None of the above. When Bubby makes a bad choice, Megan simply does what every other normal, non-magical mom does: She puts Bubby in time out.

I actually witnessed Bubby's refusal to make a good choice once and the time out that followed. It broke my heart -- and the heart of GiGi, his paternal great-grandma, and his great aunt Katie—because, get this, it was smack dab in the middle of Bubby eating his birthday cake.

At one point soon after the "Happy Birthday" song, Bubby started being a little cuss, wouldn't choose the "good choice" option and ended up being whisked away to his timeout spot in the hallway, away from the action. He cried as Megan hauled him to the hallway while Gigi, Katie and I all stared at each other and worked to restrain our own tears. There Bubby sat ... for less than one minute. Then he gave in, told Mommy he was ready to make good choices and cheerfully danced his way back to his highchair to finish his cake.

Like I said, it's bizarre. Even if that's the only thing to come from Megan's four years at an expensive private college (and the massive PLUS loan Jim and I still make payments on), I say it was well worth it. Because we moms all know how difficult it is to get our kids to make good choices, to do what's right, to not follow the crowd of little cussers and be left with lifelong consequences. We know that all the time and money in the world matters not one whit when it comes to teaching our kiddos to make good choices, always and forever.

Jim and I joked again and again about how long the "good choices" tactic will work. Will a teenaged Bubby one day call from the tattoo parlor to warn Mom and Dad before showing up at home with a tat emblazoned across his shoulder, neck or shaved head?

Not likely. Megan's already working on nipping that possibility in the bud. When Brianna visited the week before Jim and I, Megan was quick to point out to Bubby the various (mostly discreet) tattoos Brianna has, telling him, "Aunt B made some bad choices, didn't she? Tattoos are a bad choice and we like good choices, don't we Bubby?"

And, of course, Bubby grinned from ear to ear and agreed. Because that's what boys who make good choices do—they listen to their mommy, agree with their mommy. At least for now. At least while he's two.

At least as long as Megan's Magical Method continues to work.

Today's question:

What is one of your more memorable GOOD choices or BAD choices?

My answer:  Bad choice -- using green food coloring (that's FOOD coloring) to color my hair for a Halloween party when I was 17. My green hair finally faded right about Christmas time!

Time out

Bubby got his "first official time out" yesterday. Megan called, rather upset, to tell me that their houseguest had left the bathroom door open, Bubby got in there, and he made a mess. I imagined lotion squirted everywhere, maybe some lipstick drawings on the cabinets, garbage strewn across the room.

Nope. None of the above. It was the age-old toilet paper unrolling.

Kids have been fascinated by toilet paper since its invention, I believe. Andrea was our biggest toilet paper fan when the girls were little. It prompted me to purchase this picture that hung in our main bathroom for years:

Andie was caught in a similarly red-handed fashion many times. Apparently we mentioned it so often as she grew older that she honestly believed that was a picture of her—something I learned only after hearing her point out the picture to a friend she was showing around the house. Many years and bathrooms later, I don't have the heart to get rid of Andie's potty picture so it now hangs in a spare bathroom downstairs.

For Bubby's first hands-on toilet paper unrolling, he was more organized about his chaos: He placed all the unrolled sheets directly into the toilet. (At least he understands a small portion of the potty process! I'm tellin' ya, the kid's a genius.)

Megan busted him fairly quickly, prevented a clogged toilet and placed Bubby in a time out. Being the ever-conscientious pre-K teacher that she is, Megan followed the timeout rules and Bubby's punishment lasted one minute. (For the unenlightened, the rule is one minute per year in age.)

It was a very traumatic minute—for Megan. Other than minor admonishments when Bubby tries to climb as high as he can possibly find a foothold or when he's making a diaper change a difficult and dirty time, Megan hasn't had to do much disciplining of her baby.

So that one minute was about 59 seconds too long for Megan. Bubby, on the other hand, survived it without major psychological harm, it seems. He may have even learned something ("No play!" as Megan firmly stated in her best stern-teacher tone).

When the time was up, Bubby wrapped his arms around his mommy and gave her three big kisses; a sincere apology, I'd say, coming from a kiddo with a vocabulary of fewer than five (very unclear) words.

Still, Megan needed assurance from her mom that she did the right thing, and she was on the phone with me before the slobbery kisses from Bubby had dried.

You did the right thing, Megan. I promise.

(But I'd make sure the bathroom door stays shut going forward, if I were you.)

Great Grandma Idea #23: I'm thinking I need to make our longtime bathroom picture a traveling display, bestowing it on each of the girls' households as the grandkids take turns mimicking their Auntie Andie. With Bubby being the only grandchild so far, it's a pretty safe bet Megan's house will be the first awarded such an honor.