National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Don’t Cut Corners

When it comes to curbing naughty behavior, Dr. Ray Guarendi doesn’t cut corners. In fact, he recommends making good use of the handy places where two walls meet.

BY Dr. Ray Guarendi

June 10-16, 2007 Issue | Posted 6/5/07 at 9:00 AM


What would you suggest as a fair, effective means of discipline for preschoolers?

A crucial consideration for any discipline with preschoolers is simplicity. Given the speed and creativity with which little Butch and Butkus can make mischief, you can’t hope to keep thinking up new responses to their ever-changing misbehavior. Besides, by the time a youngster is 4 or 5 years old, he alone is the cause of his parents having lost somewhere between 20 and 30 IQ points. So it’s all the more important that discipline be basic and easy for us brain-fried parents to remember.

One of the simplest, yet most effective, discipline tools for younger children is the corner — that plain, unsung, great-grandpa relied on intersection of two walls. In many ways, childrearing has come full circle in recent decades. Today’s experts are realizing that a lot of yesterday’s approaches that helped raise generations of responsible kids still have merit.

Corners come with a number of benefits. First, they are readily available. The average house or apartment has 15 to 30 of them, with several present in each room. Seldom is a corner farther than a few feet away. Corner closeness is critical when disciplining kids who aren’t considerate enough to confine their misbehavior to any one place in the house. Second, corners are boring. They’re not someplace kids rush to spend their free time. When was the last time Wally pleaded with you, “Mom, there’s no wrestling on TV, and all my friends are taking naps, so do you mind if I stand in the corner awhile?” Third, corners seem built with kids in mind. They fit nicely around them, shielding them from distractions and allowing them valuable time to cool down or think about what they’ve done.

What’s a good time limit for a corner stay? Anywhere from a few to 15 minutes, depending upon a child’s age and the nature of the misbehavior. Generally, the younger the child, the less time the corner needs for its intended boring or simmering-down effect.

What if Wally acts immature once in the corner? Amazing how many preschoolers do. Some begin a running monologue the instant their body touches the wall. “How come you never send Sheila to the corner? She’s your pet, that’s why. I’m the slave around here. How’d you run the house before I was born? I’m never going to have corners in my house so my kids won’t have to worry about me being mean.”

A simple response to such a stream of words — be they nagging, complaining or whining: Time doesn’t begin until the silence does.

For more of Ray Guarendi’s wit and wisdom, corner him at