Why We Dont Do Time Outs Anymore

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Jax is a professional limit tester. As you may remember, Jax and I were in Massachusetts for some time while Dean remained in Maine- leaving Dad out of the discipline equation for some time. It also meant a lot of Jax’s time was spent in full time preschool or with his Gams, so we’ve been figuring each out all over again. He will go from calm, quiet, and engaged to over the top, excited, even crazy, in seconds. Just like any child, sometimes he goes overboard. Then it will happen- suddenly he’s done the very thing we’ve said not to, and I’m wishing it was appropriate to yell like Charlie Brown: Aaaaggghhhhh! What comes of it? The dreaded TIME OUT.
Time outs used to be effective for Jax. Really. We used to have it all figured out. It was better if we generally avoided moments that escalate to a situation where we need to say TIME OUT!! We all wish we could have angelic cherubs who never need us to count to three, to give final warnings, or to send them off to the hallway, the time out chair, the step, where ever it is they get sent when they just plain old need to knock it off. (!)
Then it happened. The tables turned. With all the changes taking place in our family, and with Jax being fairly headstrong and somehow very well versed at interacting with adults, Jax did what he does best. He pushed back.
He challenged timeouts like we were the lemon juice on his paper cut. He would try to keep his own control in his personal power struggle: putting himself in time out: “Sorry, bud, we’re not going to have a cartoon right now, how about we find something else to do??”
His response would be instantaneous, and would rival the moodiest teenager who was just told her pom poms were being taken away and she could not go to prom: “that’s IT! I’m GOING to TIME OUT!! FINE!! I’ll just go then!!”
Oh boy. The power struggle went on like this. We were dumbfounded- everybody could be sitting together having a nice time, and Mr Time Out would come out like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Off he’d storm, as far as he could get. Sometimes we let him sulk, but because he’d send himself at any time, we weren’t exactly feeling the effectiveness if we needed discipline. At the same time I’d been renewing some attachment parenting techniques- so it was clear we had an opportunity to make some behavioral changes. AP touts using ‘Time In, not Time Out’- meaning to me engaging your little one in activities and an environment where the behavior doesn’t have a chance to occur. AP also goes beyond this by using ‘gentle discipline’- putting ourselves in the child’s place will at least help us understand how to explain what was wrong and why. Then you may move on to using ‘Yes instead of No’- he MAY do this or that, instead of saying he may NOT do that or this.
Our solution still involves having to sometimes remove Jax from the situation at hand- but we took time outs away from him. The ultimate parental power buy back program? Maybe- at first Jax was really confused. For a few days, all we did for discipline was say, nope, you don’t get a time out! You’ll have to stay here and talk to us instead.
Eventually Dean and I agreed that if Jax needed to, he would go sit on his bed for five minutes. Still the basic ideas really of time out, but the message is a lot different. I still believe he needs a consistent way to learn positive and negative consequences. Sitting on his bed near toys he can’t play with has made a bigger impact on Jax than being somewhere he can argue his point while we’re fumbling over his discipline, and working on different ways of keeping him engaged and to prevent boredom (versus keeping him occupied) has kept him out of there as well.
So how’s it working? So far, so good. Life is never perfect. Jax will still have his moments and we will still have to work at helping him through it. The best advantage to gentle discipline through Attachment Parenting is the trust in each other built around the discipline, rather than the discipline through fear tactic that comes from frustration and ultimatums for behavior. Raising children is always a long term endeavor and we all hope we’re doing what’s right for our children now so they will do well in the future. Until then this is working out great!


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