By the time Eppie turns three she begins to be a typical mischievous toddler. Silas is torn between her behavior and his overwhelming love for her. Dolly explains to Silas that discipline is good for the child:
Dolly Winthrop told him that punishment was good for Eppie, and that, as for rearing a child without making it tingle a little in soft and safe places now and then, it was not to be done.
In other words, Dolly is suggesting that Silas spank the child. She follows this with another suggestion, which is that he shut Eppie "once, in the coal-hole." This is something Dolly once did with her son because she couldn't bear to spank him. It scared the boy into compliance.
Silas' opportunity for discipline comes one day when Eppie goes missing for a while. Silas puts her in the coal-hole, but ironically, she ends up enjoying it.