10 December 2010

Tips For Time-Outs

A while ago I mentioned the whole living in a police state thing and that we were laying down the law with time-outs. I also promised to talk about that a bit and in the spirit of keeping this thing going I am doing just that. I am by no means an expert on all this, and it is certainly a work in progress, but I did learn a lot during the process and maybe it will be useful to someone else.

So the bad news about using the time-outs is:
  • They are total BS and a major PITA.
  • What the book describes as a few minutes of quiet time to regroup and learn consequences is actually a 20 minute process of kicking, screaming and general histrionics.
  • It never gets any easier despite what the so-called experts say.
  • It is nearly impossible to juggle effective time-outs with multiple kids unless you have instituted the protocol long before the introduction of the second/subsequent ones.
  • It is a crap-ton of work that is basically just extended punishment of the authority figures involved...a pretty common theme in parenting.
The good news is that:
  • They do work.
  • Time-outs shift the blame from "mean-mommy" to the child in an innocuous way. Instead of wondering why your child is tormenting you, there is an awareness that the child made a choice and now they will deal with the outcome. No blaming or making anyone feel guilty, just a subtle reminder to think twice next time.
  • If you can tough it out it only takes a few days to move from each time-out being 45 minutes of temper tantrums to a place where the mere statement that a time-out could occur is enough to quell negative behavior.
  • The process does teach a child the concept of choices and accountability for those choices.
  • You, as a parent, do walk away feeling empowered to change negative behavior and I, for one, no longer feel like a constant victim of my kids and their drama.
So in a nutshell, this can be a very effective technique, but I have some advice that none of the literature seemed to get into. First, be prepared for each time-out to last as long as an hour since the reaction to the first issuance may be pretty extraordinary. It took three days before I no longer has to spend upwards of 30 minutes just putting her back into the time-out area as she tried desperately to kick, hit and bite her way out of this situation. Second, be prepared to be patient and not get drawn into the drama. It was easily the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent to just keep sitting her back in the chair with the calm words "You (fill in the blank) so now you need to sit in time-out." I confess the urge to flip my shit and just lecture her was almost overwhelming, but fight it. If I can do it, anyone can. Third, have a really good time-out place. It should be safe, clear of anything they can grab or break and easily supervised. Without getting into the gory details, Cha Cha managed to rip most of the cable line out of the wall, pull the end off the baseboard heater and nearly concuss herself smashing her own head into the wall before we found a nice location in which to endure these fits. (It sounds way more dramatic than it was, but it was serious shit-fit time around here for a few days.) Fourth, be prepared to do re-fresher courses. I find that every few weeks we need to spend a day or two in full-on police state so as to remind Cha Cha that I mean business. Lastly, despite what the books say, I think you need to give warnings. I get the idea that you should explain the behaviors that will warrant a time-out in advance then move immediately to time-out when they occur, but that seems like a bit of stretch for a girl who still finds Dora the Explorer to be a riveting good time.

With Cha Cha the first offending behavior gets a warning "we don't (fill in the blank), your choices are stop (fill in the blank) or go in time-out" then if the behavior continues it is straight to time out with the constant mantra of "you (fill in the blank) so now you need to have a time-out." I set the timer for three minutes and if she tries to run away or escape (and she does) then I put her back and reset the clock. Granted certain events mean discipline with no warning cry such as any wailing on her sister and dangerous behaviors that require immediate intervention. It is grueling and seemingly way more trouble than it is worth, but the reward is that we are living in what feels like a new house.

Around here the new party-line is "I don't negotiate with terrorists." Plain and simple your poor behavior will only earn a negative outcome for you. Just you, and no one else. Mom and Dad will not cave because you scream, we will not drop everything to meet your every whim just because you throw a fit. That ship has sailed. Also, Bitz, this goes for you too. Lesson learned about trying to reason with people who have the reasoning skills of kelp.

Hopefully this will help someone out. I know I am glad we did it since Cha Cha was well on her way to full-on Bratdom and well, I just don't want that for my kid. As overwhelming a thought as this is, I am responsible for turning her into a functioning member of society. Discipline is the seedy underbelly of that responsibility, but hey, no one said parenting was all rainbows and tea-parties after all.


Anonymous said...

Good tips! We haven't really started the time outs here yet (E won't be 2 until April, so I'm thinking it's early, but maybe it's not?). I know that they worked on me when I was a little kid, when the penalty for talking (it was complete silent time out!) would be another minute of time-out. Man, that was awful. But effective. :)

P.S. I love your craft blog!

Sarah said...

Love the "We don't negotiate with terrorists". I will definitely be adpoting that mantra/idea. Too funny but so true.

Alexis said...

Yeah, a bit melodramatic, but pretty much how you feel. I guess the whining and fit pitching may technically be extortion, but splitting hairs really! :)

Alexis said...

They do work, but like everything else in parenting, the kid will let you know when they are ready, certainly not the other way around!

Thanks about Full Of Knit, it is sporadic at best, but it is a nice hobby about my hobby.