Punishing children is a fraught, occasionally necessary task. I know we live in a time of positive rewards and encouraging good behavior rather than punishing the bad. But toddlers are basically tiny psychopaths who will destroy you. Don’t believe me? Just trying blocking a two-year-old’s access to bleach. They will scream, cry and maybe bite you—all because you wouldn’t let them dose themselves in a corrosive chemical. If you don’t want to get the bleach out for this experiment, just try giving a kid exactly the thing they want, and you will often get the exact same wailing and gnashing of teeth.
My point being: Sometimes you need your kid to chill the fuck out and stop throwing Duplos at your head. Sometimes that kid just needs some good old-fashioned reflection after stomping on her brother’s foot and insisting “He wanted it!”
The most humane way to accomplish this basic parenting task is time out. Some people have a corner, or a certain step on the stairs. I have a tiny little stool with a clock on it and the words “Time-Out.” It’s cute, which is good, since it is in my dining room.
Recently, I stumbled upon more time-out chairs on Facebook, of course. These chairs are decorated with a cute little sexist rhyme that reads:
Girls are made of sugar and spice, or so they say
But you are a little TOO spicy today!
Whining and being ugly and not listening is not nice,
maybe next time you’ll think twice.
Because a little girl who throws a fit
will be a little girl who has to sit.
(Note: I added punctuation, because apparently these chair makers have a lot of love for shaming their children, but no fondness for grammar.)
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: That shit does not scan. You’re teaching your girls that their physical attractiveness is attached to their adherence to a (nebulous) standard of being “ladylike,” but you are also teaching them that you care naught for the legacy of Shelly and Keats. Or, if this is “ugly” as in the Southern slang for being “naughty,” that’s actually worse: equating beauty with moral performance, “ugliness” with not being a lady—well, that’s just balls, that’s what it is!
But okay, sure, if you have no problem with telling a young child that her bad behavior makes her ugly—fine. I saw another chair with a rhyme that replaces “being ugly and not listening” with “whining and being sassy.” So, in sum: Having an opinion isn’t ladylike. Thanks, patriarchy chairs!
Just in case you think moms only want to shame their daughters, you would be correct. The boy version of this chair reads: “Boys that fight, kick, and shout/will be boys who sit in time out.”
So—only girls sass and whine and are ugly? Only boys fight and kick and shout? In 18 years, these same kids will be the frat boys on the news demanding that they not be stereotyped and angrily typing #notallmen into my Twitter feed. I know parenting is a complex endeavor and life is a rich tapestry, but come on. The straight line from point A to point Your Kids Sucking at Life is a little too clear.
The chairs, of course, are just evidence of a deeper problem that begins right at birth. Parents talk differently to sons and daughters, unconsciously expecting their sons to take more risk and perceiving their daughters as more vulnerable. Mothers talk more to their daughters. And what are they saying? Apparently, it’s “Value male authority, my inferior daughter.” So, look, these chairs aren’t the problem as much as they are are just part of the myriad of problems we hand our kids the moment they manage to headbutt out of a vagina. But the fact that chairs like this are gushed over and shared and widely replicated shows that parents aren’t even critically interrogating their own tacky vinyl decals—much less their biased responses to their children.
It’s 2015; women are still paid less than men. People all shrug their shoulders and wonder why. Well, this is why. This is parents telling their children not only to internalize sexism, but to sit on that sexism and sob.
Lyz Lenz has written for The Hairpin, The Toast, The New York Time Motherlode, and other various and sundry internet entities. Find her on twitter @lyzl.
Images via Etsy