Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Time Out

My husband and I are advocates of the time out. Sometimes we go with the quick no warning time-out though this is rare.
For instance, last night when Matt kicked Mojo and I told him that was bad, and then when he kicked me in response it was straight to a time out - on the stairs.
We usually try to do the counting thing though. You know - 1, 2, 3 and it's a time out. Usually he freaks when we get to 2 and he stops. When he doesn't we put him in whatever we have deemed the time-out location. Sometimes it's the living room chair, sometimes it's a stair, I've even resorted to the cart in the grocery store (and that is fun). I am not one to carry a naughty mat nor do I think location is that important. If you have ever seen my child in a time out you would understand -- if he's in time out he's pissed off and location is irrelevant.
But this morning I was watching the Gill Deacon show (it was 5 am - there's not much choice at that time). She was talking to an expert about time outs.
It was the stupidest segment of television I have watched in awhile.
The supposed expert they had talking about it was driving me crazy. As they sat in a nicely lit studio with no children running around they had a serious discussion about the idea behind a time out. Apparently, when putting a child in a time out you should be calm, rational and loving. You should not be angry or frustrated. You should lovingly explain to your toddler that you are putting them in time out so that they can calm down and then you will discuss the behaviour. And then the good parent you are, you should walk away and be calm because that is what this behaviour is all about.
Have they met my child?
Time out for me is the moment where I choose to be a good mother and not strangle my child, not leave him alone in the grocery store or just go buy a bottle of wine and drink it because I'm at a loss.
Do I have a moment of clarity, where I think happy thoughts all while my child is freaking out and possibly kicking or screaming or - and this is his latest manouevre - punching. Of course I don't. Generally when we get to the time-out phase I'm mad or frustrated or both. I'm trying to figure out why he's doing what he's doing. And I'm trying to find a good solution. I generally don't take the time to go into my happy place to convey to my child that I'm not mad.
Seriously. I think that may confuse him.
Take for instance my upbringing.
My parents were and are amazing. They had their own discipline techniques - they weren't the biggest advocates of the time out. But let me tell you. I knew when I was in trouble. Don't get me wrong, they didn't bring out the whip and threaten me. Nothing like that. But, my usually calm and fairly reserved parents let me know when they were not pleased with me.
It didn't always get to the punishment stage because they could convey in their words and looks that if I didn't stop I was in trouble. They were not reaching for their inner calmness (well, I 'm sure they had to in order to not kill me) but there were no fake smiles and niceness while calmly putting me in my room.
They made it clear - your actions were wrong and I am upset.
And, that to me is the best way to do it.
I never questionned it. I didn't always listen or behave. But there was never any question that if I was bad my parents were not happy and there would be a consequence.
I can't imagine it being any other way. How confusing would it have been for me if, say, when I was 4 years old, I bit my sister and instead showing her complete disgust with my actions, my mom calmed herself down and then gently told me that biting was wrong? With my personality I probably would have laughed, and then done it again to see what her reaction would be. Truthfully, I vividly recall the day I got mad at my sister and bit her through her winter jacket. I don't remember the punishment, but I certainly remember thinking that I really should never do that again. And I never have.
And trust me. My mom was furious. That I recall.
My point is - sometimes as parents we need to show our emotions.
Of course showing emotions works two ways. Sure last night after the kicking incident Matthew knew I was mad (and in pain), but a lot of the time I let him know how happy I am. It's awesome to fall over laughing with him, or to play "cut the pickle tickle tickle" and laugh. And I think that he'll remember that just as much.
And besides, that's who I am. I'm an emotional nut case and a bit of a drama queen. You know me and love me for who I am. And so will he.
And if all else fails, at least his dad is a pretty calm person.


Jeff said...

You know what? Making a blanket statement about time outs, or discipline in general is a lot like saying all diapers will catch the same amount of urine and not leak.

Every kid is different. Every situation is different. Adaptive parenting: it's not just for breakfast anymore.

We use time out sometimes. We use the calm voice on occasion, and the more forceful one too. Sometimes we use the nurturing, shrink down to her level and calmly explain. Sometimes we pick her up, lay her flat on her back (on something soft, and never aggressively) and hold her down while we speak to emphasize a) our dominant position (i.e. she has to listen to us) and b) the importance of what we're saying (i.e. don't lick the wall receptacle).

It's your kid. You know them better, and you definitely know what works for them.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching the Cosby show and Clair Huckstable(sp?) got PI-ISSED at Vanessa because she lied, stole a car and her mom thought she was at a friends house that was on fire and on tv. So she RIPPED a strip off of her and I asked my mom (this is like 2 years ago) if Clair was right. And she said "Hell Yes."

Because how is a child supposed to KNOW that their ACTIONS have CONSEQUENCES if you don't show them how they make you feel. LIke if you lovey dovied matt into a corner for time out he'll be bowled over with raw emotion at school and his future partners will EAT HIM ALIVE. It's called life - not sterility.

Ruthie said...

It's so easy to talk about child discipline in theory, when it's rhetorical. It's another thing entirely when it's been a long day, you're exhausted and at your wit's end.

None of us are the perfect robot parents that can always remain perfectly calm and pulled together. I always wonder how my parents stayed so cool-headed with me.

If you start counting and he stops at "2," I'd say you're doing a good job!