Q&A: Time-Outs

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dear PardyMama,
My son is almost 3 and I can't seem to get him to sit still or listen to me.  His pre-school teacher complains about the same thing, and nothing seems to work.  Do you have any discipline suggestions? I don't want to spank him and I keep trying time-out but it seems to have no effect on him.  
Fed-Up Mama

Toddlers!?! They drive you crazy, right?  They can be the sweetest thing under the sun one minute with the hugs and puppy-dog eyes, then the next second they are screaming and running around like maniacs.  I feel ya! This reminds me so much of my daughter, Daphne, who just turned 3 last summer.  

Granted, some of this inability to sit still is simply their phase of life.  Toddlers (the busy ones anyway, and I really don't know any other kind) seem to have fire ants in their pants at all times.  If they don't MOVE they won't wear themselves out, and if you're like me, then of course you want your child tired at the end of the day!

But, sometimes over-stimulation can have the opposite effect.  Children who are too busy can get amped up or suddenly crash into an emotional oblivion - neither of which amount to sitting still or being good listeners. 

If time-outs seem to have lost their effect, gauge your sons surroundings for how stimulating they are.  Surprisingly, if he's fine with being sent to time-out, it might actually be because he enjoys it.  If this is the case, each time he is sent to time out, you are reinforcing the behavior that precipitated the punishment and telling him it is actually "How to get what you want"...which is exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do!

I know this sounds crazy, but try using time-out as a reward rather than a punishment.  

First step:  Change the name.  
Instead of "time-out" start calling it "alone time" or "calm time" or something more positive that he won't associate with discipline.

Second step: Change the location.
Don't have his new quiet moments in the same spot where he used to contemplate his faults.  

Third step: Change the purpose.
Give him something he enjoys to occupy himself - a storybook, a game, or a puzzle will work fine, just make sure he doesn't need your help in order to have fun using it.

Once these things are established, start implementing the new "alone time" as a reward.  When he starts to act up, simply and sternly tell him that he will get some special calm time in a few minutes if he can pay attention.  Then, follow through when you see him responding appropriately. (Do your best not to expect too much the first several times!  After all, most three-year-olds have the attention span of gnats.)  If nothing else, you've started to incorporate more time and space in your environment that breeds calming, self-soothing.

My Daphne was acting up so badly at her Mother's Day Out that one day she received 15 time-outs!  (No joke, see below!)  

I prayed about it, put my "therapist goggles" on, and spoke with her teacher about the situation.  The teacher tried the time-out-as-reward strategy as an experiment, and Daphne had a great day (no time-outs)!  I can't promise your boy won't have wiggly legs or wandering ears from time to time...but, pursuing opportunities for quiet might be just what his busy little self has been wanting all along.  Good luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments make my day! Please share!

Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |