Time-outs in children

This time of year is very demanding, stressful, and busy for the majority of us. But frankly, it’s the kids that seem to be suffering more than usual. I see more inappropriate behaviour in December than I do the rest of the year. I see a greater lack of respect, and more fatigue. I see families who want to experience the holiday season to its full extent and participate in every single function that comes their way; be it a school activity, a family get-together, a snow-day with the neighbourhood kids, a trip to an excessively decorated store pushing consumerism on everyone with eyes in their head and money in their wallet, and a much more flexible structure in the daily routine.

There are Christmas concerts to attend, skating parties to participate in, trees to decorate, cookies to bake (and eat!), there are bedtime routines to challenge, extra clothing to put on and take off (and lose and find and lose again), the list never ends.

No wonder the kids melt down. I feel like melting down.

It makes me question why we participate in all this craziness to begin with. Because the inevitable result always ends up with kids in tears.

Why do I have to implement new discipline strategies during the most wonderful time of the year? WHY?

Unfortunately I do not have a choice. I am at my wits end.Our 4yo is out of control. And our reaction to his endless meltdowns, his silly behaviour, his lack of respect to the regular routine, his continuous noise-making, his mood-swings, frankly, it’s wearing on our nerves. He does not listen to us, he does not respect us, he does not register explanations or accept reasons. He simply continues with the undesirable behaviour no matter who is present, or what the consequences are.

Let me say this: I am not a fan of time-outs.

Let me also say this: a new version of time-out has been implemented in this house.

If you google time-outs, you will notice thousands of results in their handy little statistic. It obviously affects many people.

My personal observation however is that the majority of people are doing it wrong. Or apply it to the wrong circumstance.

My personal opinion is that a time-out needs to serve a few very basic funtions and should only be applied at a time when there is a tremendous need for the child, and the disciplining parent, to have a break.

So this is what happens in our family:

He’s acting out. He’s loud, he’s obnoxious, and he gets his toddler sister all agitated. He gets a speaking-to:

Benjamin, stop XXX.

He doesn’t stop XXX. He gets another warning, and an encouraging alternative to XXX. This may involve physical help (grabbing him, eye-level contact ensuring he sees and hears the warning).

Benjamin, stop XXX now. Why don’t you play lego/read a book/go outside, etc?

He starts giggling, whining, wrestling himself out of my grip. I give him a moment to reflect, and he still does not stop XXX. The next step is a consequence:

Benjamin, stop XXX now or you will *enter a consequence”. This could include anything from taking away a privilege, a toy or a special chocolate.

The consequence must be followed through at the slightest inclination that he will still not stop XXX.

Up until not very long ago, by the time the consequence was executed, we usually experienced success. But lately, the consequence does not seem to faze him anymore.

This is very unfortunate for the parent handling this situation because now, there is even more whining, crying, and excessive noise-making. Plus he’s still doing XXX, but now he’s also trying to get the consequence undone.

Removing him to his room to sit on his bed and “cry it out” is not particularly effective since we live in a bungalow and we can still hear his wailing. He is also in a room that I do not want for him to feel negative energy in, since this is the room where he sleeps and plays. His toys are in there. His bed. All his lego.

But he’s not stopping XXX.

This behaviour has come and gone over the years. There have been phases that we’ve endured, and eventually it stopped on its own.

But lately, it’s been getting worse, not better, and it’s particularly bad when we have company. My therapist-sister-in-law suggested he’s trying to get attention. Which makes little sense to me since he gets plenty attention from everyone.

Ignoring the behaviour doesn’t work because he’s not learning anything.

Freaking out in his room and not respecting the boundaries (the closed door, for example, or continuously coming out seeking physical comfort from us) isn’t helping my now very edgy state of mind.

Enter the new time-out version. I came up with this idea while getting the summer stuff put away in the garage and taking the snow shovels out. There was a little lawn chair by the side door, which, upon reflection, I decided not to put into the garage. Instead I placed it into the laundry room downstairs in the basement.

Our laundry room is partially renovated, not very warm, and lacking in distractions. It’s the perfect time-out place, as far as I’m concerned.

The little chair is sitting in a corner. I even placed a warm housecoat on it.

Should a time-out situation arise, he can go sit down there and calm down. He may come back upstairs when he is ready to behave according to what he knows is acceptable behaviour. I may or may not include a form of time-telling (an hourglass, for example), but I’m not particularly concerned with time at the moment. My goal here is to let him have his moment away from the rest of us until he feels calmer. He is old enough to understand what is expected of him in terms of behaviour, and I will trust him to learn how to handle these outbursts.

He knows that he will be escorted down there by one of us if he does not go down there himself. He has already exclaimed that he does not want to see that lawn chair in the basement and could we take it out and put it back in the garage.

The answer was a firm NO.

My next challenge is finding out WHAT is causing him to act out this way, and finding solutions toward preventing the behaviour from escalating to such a degree that he has to go sit in a cold room by himself to calm down.

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3 thoughts on “Time-outs in children

  1. Ah the trials and tribulations of parenting. Dicipline and consequence are very much lacking in today’s society. Always stick to your ‘guns” Claudette, no matter how hard it may “hurt” you (not them) since it will pay off in the end.

  2. Oh how I can relate! 6.5 years and still pushing the boundaries here with the added joy of ‘back talk’!

    Add everyone’s fatigue into the mix and everything just explodes.

    We’ve invoked something VERY similiar in our house. Like you JM we don’t like to use their bedrooms for time-out and have a very small house. We use a floor pillow in the front entry way.

    Ours too are permitted to return when they feel they are ready to go back to being a ‘team player’.

    I read or heard a parenting analogy once that I want to share with you (and your readers). “Children pushing boundaries and testing their parents can be likened to people that play slot machines. If a child gets just one ‘jackpot’, they think they can get them all the time. They will work harder and harder and expend more energy trying.”

    I remind myself often not to give in to ‘pester power’. I find it hardest to be consistent when I am tired. It is soooo tempting to just give them what they want or let them get away with bad behaviour but we owe it to them to keep trying.

    We love ’em all the same… even when they push our buttons!!!

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