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Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Love Time Outs! And They Aren’t Just for Kids

I never dreamed I would be the type of mom that issues time outs. Before my son came along, I thought I would be able to handle any wrongdoing by my children the old fashioned way. They would follow my every direction and I believed with my no nonsense, authoritative type of parenting they would never give me any trouble.

Can you believe I even thought that way?! How hilarious.

Now that reality has set in, I realize things aren’t that simple. While I do exert some sense of authority and do demand a certain level of cooperation, I am nowhere near the type of prison warden I thought I would be.

My son is considered well behaved by others. At least so far. One of the nicest compliments you can give a parent is to say their children are well behaved and a pleasure to be around. I sure hope I continue to hear that. It makes you feel you are being validated for a hard job well done.

My son does have his moments however, especially at home. What I have found to be very helpful in getting him to either do something I would like him to do or stop doing something I do not want him to do is the method of counting to 3 and then using time out as the punishment. The length of time out is 1 minute for every year of age.

When I first heard parents doing this years ago, I rolled my eyes and muttered, “Yeah, right.” I remember thinking what kind of discipline is this? I felt like lecturing them about how “real” parents do it. Even though I wasn’t one, I had in my head how I thought that this method of counting and time outs was a joke and would never work. Well, I’m here to tell you that it can work very well if done properly.

There is a video out there called,
“1,2,3 Magic”. I recommend you watch it. They have managed to take this concept and simplify it. Sometimes when teaching, which is what this is, the best method is the simplest. The children learn very quickly that they are given warnings, and then the consequence is always the same when the warnings aren’t heeded.

My son usually will start to cooperate if I start counting and will do so by the count of 1 or 2. On occasion he will take it to 3 and will end up then in time out. He has learned over time that if he is in time out for not doing something I told him to do, he does the time out and still has to do the chore I originally asked him to do. He is learning it is easier to comply and just do what I ask. Again, he occasionally tests me and is always offered the same consequence.

As in any teaching method, consistency and simplicity are the keys. Because my son understands this simple strategy, he knows what the consequence is for not complying and he knows the punishment is always the same. He can relax in the knowing what to expect. What’s nice about this concept is you can continue to use it as they get older and adapt the consequences as the child changes and matures.

Though we sometimes still have our setbacks, his tantrums are less frequent than others’ I believe and often times are shorter when he does have them. But, being the toddler that he is, there are still times where my patience has been pushed to the brink.

A toddler has many jobs in this world. He is learning so many new things and learning how to push the boundaries is one of them. They are supposed to! That’s how they learn. Unfortunately though, that pushing the boundaries thing can really wear on you. Though I sometimes screw up and end up not following my own advice, I have found that when things reach the boiling point that the timeout I send him to is really a time out for me. Those 2 minutes will allow me time to cool down and collect myself so the problem at hand can be corrected more sanely. The great part is, the older they get the longer the time out is!

When things get really bad, which thankfully isn’t too often, I look at my husband and say, “Momma needs a time out.” That is his cue to take over and let me have about 15 minutes or so to myself where I can go exercise really hard, meditate or lock myself in the bathroom and just paint my nails if that is what I want to do. As the primary caregiver who is on call 24/7 I sometimes need these short time out breaks to gather back in my sanity. If I don’t then I am a ticking time bomb and if I explode I will end up causing more damage in the long run.

When I don’t have anyone around to help me that is when I use other distractions like a video, play dough, coloring, etc. Whatever works. Try and have in the back of your mind what you know works as a great distraction and pull it out of your arsenal when you see the mushroom cloud starting to build in your head.

I am teaching my son about life. He is closely watching and picking up on how I handle things thrown at me. He is monitoring my reaction to when he does something wrong, when I get overwhelmed with stress, even how I handle my own tantrums is being observed. He is watching literally every move I make.

My job that I am privileged to have, is to show him there are consequences in life for doing wrong and rewards for doing right. I prefer to reward the right behavior whenever I see it and often and calmly handle the bad behavior with predictability and without anger if I can.

Again, give “1,2,3 Magic” a try and keep an open mind when you research it. Give it a try, it couldn’t hurt any. I wish you all the luck in your teachings.

For the DVD
1-2-3 Magic (DVD): Managing Difficult Behavior in Children 2-12
For the book
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

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