Timeout chair for little girls who are too “spicy” sends wrong message

Sometimes my kids suck. And I am not averse to handing out the odd punishment when the need arises. I’ve been known to confiscate belongings, ban TV for a week, and even use a chair as a ‘thinking chair’.

I’m a supporter of using timeout chairs

I used a thinking chair a lot with my eldest child when she was around three or four, and it worked well for us. She learned that certain behaviours were unacceptable and that they would consistently result in her spending time alone and thinking about what she had done.

I haven’t bothered using a thinking chair with my younger two either because:

a) I have developed my scary mum voice to the point now where I don’t need to, or
b) they have finally killed my spirit to live.

Six of one; half a dozen of the other, right?

My point is this: I get what it’s like to be at the end of your tether and to need to remove your child and have them think about their actions. Every parent has felt like that many times in their lives.

What’s wrong with this chair?

But this chair? This chair isn’t about time out to think about your behaviour; this chair is about instilling shame into little girls.

Little girls are made of Sugar and Spice
(or so they say)
But you are a little
Too spicy today!
Being ugly & not listening are not nice,
maybe next time you will think twice
because a little girl who throws a fit, will be a little girl who has to sit!

I feel like this is stating the obvious, but let’s do it anyway. This is no way to speak to a little girl you want to one day grow up to be a strong, independent woman.

Telling a little girl they are ugly is fraught with connotations. For the benefit of the person who made this chair, I’m going to assume this chair is for punishing a girl because her behaviour is ugly, rather than her not having perfectly symmetrical facial features, but either way, it’s still incredibly damaging.

But this chair is basically telling a little girl that if she is beautiful, agreeable and quiet, she will be acceptable to society. It’s grooming girls to be victims.

The experts agree

Clinical psychologist Sasha Lynn says it’s important parents provide clear boundaries around behaviour that doesn’t involve gendered ideologies. ‘All kids should adhere to the same boundaries, with the same wording and the same consequences,’ she says.

Which leads us to the equivalent boys’ chair on the market, which reads:

Boys will be boys, or so they say
But I’m raising my boys to be men one day.
Shouting is not nice and kicking hurts
Nobody likes their face in the dirt.
Boys who fight, kick and shout
Will be boys that sit in time out.

Whoa, wait. So girls have to be quiet and pretty, while boys are expected to not get into a fight? I sniff a whole new generation of gendered crime victims and perpetrators, and a pay gap that is going to go on ad infinitum.

Sending the wrong message

Dr Lynn agrees, ‘By using chairs like these, you’re potentially setting up a range of issues around identity, gendered beliefs, self-esteem and self-worth.

‘All children – regardless of gender – should be taught that it’s important to be strong, confident and have a voice, but there’s a time and a place for them.’

Of course, chairs don’t raise children to have skewed gendered beliefs; parents raise children to have skewed gendered beliefs. We can mock the chairs all we like, but the deeper problem is that boys are still raised to be risk takers and girls are still raised to not take up too much space, and to think of themselves as vulnerable. Being aware of it is the first step but we’ve clearly got a long way to go.

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