This is the second part of a two-part post about Time-Out. If you haven’t read the first one, Time-Out Doesn’t Work, you will not be using the most critical part of Time-Out. Please read it first, if you haven’t and implement those changes first. If those steps are not followed, Time-Out will NEVER work. It’s not Time-Out’s fault. I hate using the F word (fault, come on now!), but it’s true. I have seen it over and over in my office. People come back and are using some of what I asked them to do, part of what Super Nanny does, with maybe part of what their parents did with them (I turned out alright! Really?). It won’t work. Clean the slate about everything you thought you knew about Time-Out. This is what Time-Out from Positive Attention is supposed to look like.
Time-Out has three functions. 1) To teach right from wrong. 2) To teach self-calming skills and 3) To teach independent play skills. Notice, make him/her pay for what he/she did is not included in the list! Remember, discipline is to teach. Punishment is to force. We use punishment in jails and that’s about it. It doesn’t work.
A Few Words about Spanking
If you use physical punishment, like spanking, you leave yourself defenseless in public, because someone WILL call social services. You also leave anyone else who EVER watches your kid defenseless because, if spanking is the only way you can get your child to do something, do you really want someone else hitting your kid? They will run circles around teachers because kids know teachers can’t spank them. Kids are also told in school that if anyone, ANYONE, ever touches them harshly or inappropriately to tell someone at school. It’s just not worth it.
My kids were spanked maybe a handful of times, on the bottom, with my hand, as the American Academy of Pediatrics advises. It also advises not in anger, which seems kind of strange to spank with a real smile on your face. The few times I did it was a matter of safety, like standing up in the bathtub. After the first time he stood up and I gave him a little spank, I felt horrible. The look he gave me, was just not worth it. I just went and bought a rubber mat and never left him unsupervised. Like most things in parenting, he just grew out of trying to stand up.
My kids didn’t even know the word, spank. When my son turned 5-years-old my father, a firm believer in spanking, told my son it was time for his birthday spankings. My son ran right to him because he thought it was a real present. It’s a wonder people of my generation can even function. Birthday spankings? Who thought that was a good idea?
Kids need to learn to calm themselves down. It is a skill they will use the rest of their lives. I don’t know about you, but if I went out into the hallway at work at threw a temper tantrum at work, I would be fired. One thing that helps most kids self monitor their behavior once they are school age is any environment where there are other people around, like school. At what age children start to experience embarrassment varies by temperament. Some are easily embarrassed from an early age like 2ish and some seemly never get embarrassed no matter what. Most kids start to feel embarrassed by 4 or 5- years-of-age.
Behaving so you don’t embarrass yourself. Many parents tell me that teachers say their kids are angels at school, yet they are having so many behavior problems at home. It’s actually a good sign. It means there is hope the child will be able to learn how to calm themselves down at home, too. Kids who have a lot of temper tantrums at home, but not anywhere else have usually realized, not consciously, that they can rule the house by getting negative attention, usually with BIG tantrums.
Some kids, even as young as 4 and 5, figure out if they say they are going to hurt themselves or that they are stupid or know one loves them, that it makes something magical happen, especially to their mothers. They stop yelling or being angry and melt into “Oh, honey, why would you say that, you know we love you, etc., etc…” Guess what, the consequences for what they did just went away! Their tricky little buggers.
I can not, nor would I ever, say that a child would not purposefully hurt themselves. Sad, I know, but it is always a possibility and if you are fearful that your child may hurt him/herself get them to a behavioral health professional, or call the pediatrician immediately.
What Time-Out Is NOT
Not a Time
Dr. Christophersen, one of the people who thought of Time-Out, has told me that in the 1970’s he gave an interview with one of the parenting magazines and the interviewer pushed him for how long Time-Out should last. That’s when he gave the guideline of one minute per year of age. Unfortunately, the world took it as a law. He as also told me that what he should have said was, “As long as it takes the kid to calm themselves down.” Key word: themselves. I’m not sure how many times I have had parents tell me, “I can’t get him to calm down!” To which my answer is always, “good.”
No one ever died, to my knowledge, of having a temper tantrum. Of course the environment needs to be clear of dangerous objects, because if available, they will get thrown. I tell parents who say their child would tantrum for hours if they let them that s/he will sleep well that night!
Temper tantrums are like the corny saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a noise?” A healthy child following a typical developmental path will not go up to her room, unprovoked by a toy or person, and have a temper tantrum. They are always fueled by something. Laughter. Looking. Snide comments, or for that matter, any comments at all, including “calm down.” Their lives need to consist of two conditions: positive attention or no attention. Ninety nine percent of it should be positive attention. Positive attention changes behavior, not negative attention. If you need a refresher on the three types of attention go back to the Time-Out Doesn’t Work post.
Not a Place
Time-Out chair, especially the ones that say, “Time-Out.” drive me crazy! There is no Time-Out chair or bottom step or bedroom at Walmart, the mall, the park, or most places. Time-Out somewhere in time became all about getting them to sit. It’s not about the sitting! Once you release yourself from having to get them to sit, you open up a whole new world. If you are yelling, “Get back in Time-Out!”, “I said sit down!”, etc. they are getting exactly what they want, negative attention instead of no attention!
I called Time-Out, Sit-On-Your-Bottom. I understand that I am contradicting myself, but I started gently sitting my kids on their bottoms at about one year of age. I would try to use the fewest words possible when I sat them down. “Sit-On-Your-Bottom for hitting, throwing, talking back,” etc. They grew up not even knowing it was an option to run out of Time-Out because if they did, I would ignore them, while still supervising. They came to know very quickly that all they had to do was calm down and change their behavior and they were finished. It was just part of life for them, not huge episodes of yelling and screaming by any of us, including me.
Use development to your favor when your children are 0-10ish. They don’t like to be alone and ignoring their behavior, to them, is being left alone! After 10, another story completely. I will post about discipline with tweens and teens in the future. Hopefully, you will have been using the rest of this for many years before. When I was having trouble disciplining my young children, I always thought about how I was working for the teen years, and I was right!
Not Something They “Do”
Remember, Time-Out from Positive Attention. Time-Out is something you do to them! Remove your positive attention for brief periods of time: as long as it takes for them to calm themselves down and change their behavior. When I was teaching at the college level, the textbooks called it the Love Withdrawal method. Please, I’m withdrawing my attention not my love.
A very important part of making Time-Out successful is how you tell them the Time-Out is over. Always tell them it’s over with a positively reinforcing comment. “Good job, your quiet!” “Okay, your calm, lets go read books!” When you first start using the whole system, it needs to be at kind of a sickningly sweet level and gradually, you don’t have to make it quite such a big deal, but always include a positive comment. Making them say “sorry,” or “give kisses” is just another battle waiting to happen. Just move back into your day. If my children took another child’s toy or where too rough with them, I would usually say to the other child, “I’m sorry he took your truck, here you may have it back.”
If my children misbehaved in front of other children, I would quietly take them around the corner to another room or to another section of the playground and tell them to sit on their bottom. I would whisper in their ear. I did not want to embarrass them and they became embarrassed very easily. The goal was not to humiliate them, it was to teach them. I have two really awesomely normal teens now. They have not been easy kids to raise, because they are smart, but my diligence with discipline when the were young has definitely paid off.
What SHOULD Happen During Time-Out
Should Be Able to See You
I used a heirarchy of discipline. For most minor infractions, I would say, “Sit-On-Your-Bottom” and they would sit on the floor where ever we were. If you are starting this with older kids, it could also be, “Calm down for hitting” and they may just stand.
For bigger issues, all out defiance, I would send them to their rooms until they were calm. I didn’t like to send them to their rooms, because it often involved door slamming. I don’t like door slamming, and it’s just more defiance. I tried to let the slamming go until at least 30 minutes after they were calm and we were back into our positive routine. Then I would look at them and say, “No slamming doors when you go up to your room, okay?” It’s hard to kick someone who is rubbing your back.
Should Be Able to See You’re Not Angry
As I am writing this, I can see the value in delivering all of this news about discipline in person, in my office. There, I can sell it and demonstrate it. In fact, it is sick how much I love demonstrating Time-Out in my office. Last week I had two-year-old twins in my office. One was having a lot of tantrums at home. It did not take long for him to start tantruming when he wanted to go home and his mom and I were not making that happen. The nurse outside my office said she almost knocked on the door to check on me, he was so loud. By the time he left, he was happy.
If kids see you are angry during a tantrum, they have gotten what they wanted: negative attention! You will be angry! You must hide it! In my office, we sit in chairs. I always ask parents to stand up with me to, “get big.” You don’t want to be down in a tantrum. Standing up gets you out of it, usually. I have been punched, kicked, spit at, cussed at, in my office by other people’s kids. They usually have a look of horror on their faces that I am allowing it. I always guarantee, and after thousands of kids now, I still have not been wrong, that they will never do it again to ME. I don’t have to live with them, so it takes longer at home. Nothing bugs a tantruming kid more than to have their mother enjoying a Smartie® party talking about the weather with the psychologist while they are on the ground flailing around!
Staying calm is your power. Trust me. Even with teenagers, it’s true. As soon as you loose it, they won. Keep control, keep your power. Loose control, they have the power because you lost control, too. Some parents do the opposite and walk on egg shells so they don’t “set their kid off” into a tantrum. Quietly giving in by not making demands. Even young children figure it out. They milk it for all its worth. If they don’t get what the want, and want now, they explode.
The secret to weathering a tantrum is not to take it personally. It’s immaturity. Our job as parents is to civilize the uncivilized. Remember when you first realized life isn’t fair. I didn’t like it, either. In fact, it still makes me want to have a temper tantrum. Do the world a favor and let them have tantrums when they are little. They need to practice calming themselves down. Remember when your mother told you, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times!” That’s because it takes a million times!
Should See What They are Missing
There is so much talk about not rewarding children. I believe in motivating children. No one ever says to me, “I can’t believe you come to work for bribery.” I love my job, but I do not go to work for community service, I like my paycheck! It motivates me. Remember the first two weeks of a new job when you’re kind of pouty because you feel like you are working for free? The human brain needs motivation! I’m not saying buy them a new pony, I’m saying put something in front of them to motivate them to calm down.
If you start playing a game with your other child while another one is throwing a fit, first, it’s going to make them even more angry. Overtime, they will begin to understand that if you get out their favorite snack while you are waiting for them to calm down, all they have to do is calm down. Wait for the, “Great job, would you like a snack, too?” and life goes on. Holding a grudge about your child’s temper tantrum or behavior is an adult temper tantrum. Let it go, and move on. Giving them a motivator helps distract and helps everyone, including parents, to move on.
No Skin Off My Back
This is my mantra at work and at home when it comes to childish behavior. It helps me separate myself from other people’s behavior, over which ultimately, I have no control. If I start taking other people’s behavior as my fault, I start to feel like a bad parent/person. When children understand they can’t manipulate you using their bad behavior and that only their good behavior produces a really nice life, you will see more good behavior. I tell most of the parents to whom I teach discipline that there will never be a day when they come in and tell me, “It’s over! I did it! My children never misbehave anymore!” It will always be something, but that’s why we are called parents and they are called children.