I have been using timeouts for my twins’ bad/dangerous behavior since they were 18 months. I first gave timeouts in a specific corner in our living room. (The kids room is upstairs so I can’t just send them to their room.) I spent just as much time putting the kids back in this corner as they did misbehaving. That just wasn’t working…
Next I tried using the pack “n play for a timeout zone to keep them more contained. No, I didn’t want them to associate this “travel bed” with timeouts but I found this to be the next logical step in discovering “the right way” to give a timeout. This method led to the discovery that my daughter could now climb out of the pack ‘n play (not long after this I observed her ability to climb out of her crib as well!). This method hung around for several months but I never really felt like it was doing the job. Dear daughter (DD) would scream during these timeouts and continuously attempt to climb out. Dear son (DS) thought going in the pack and play was fun. He would often cry that he wasn’t in the pack and play while DD was screaming to get out. If this wasn’t the case, then both DD and DS could be found passing each other toys in and out of the pack ‘n play during a time out. Fruitless.
Yes, with both of these methods, I tried an egg timer. It has been suggested that an egg timer (or any kind of timer) works better to control how responsive a child is to time out. If you tell your toddler “sit here until Mommy says you can get up!”, then their anger/frustration is directed at you. If you sit them down and then set a timer (out of their reach) for their allotted time out, their anger is not directed at you and is not usually directed at the inanimate object either, since it isn’t giving off any emotions for them to feed off of. There were two problems with our egg timer. First – it was cheap, did not work well, and made it difficult to measure each minute when setting it, and second – it broke the first time the kids got their hands on it.
Next, I got a small, circular Pooh bear rug from the kids’ room and brought it downstairs. I put it in the same time out corner I started with. I kept thinking, maybe I’m just not being persistent enough? I mean, I don’t give timeouts willy nilly. I use redirection whenever possible. When DD or DS are doing something that endangers someone then they get a timeout (pushing, biting, hitting). What was I doing wrong? I had friends tell me “just keep putting them back in their timeout spot, eventually they’ll get it.” After two days of spending half an hour placing DD back in her timeout spot, and ending up holding her still in her timeout, I decided my tactics had to change.
Durring those two days I had a thrashing little girl who only got more and more pissed off at her momma as the timeouts went on. In the middle of one of these fits, I realized – this is her reaction. It isn’t going to change. I have to do something different to make this work. Even though I felt like smacking her upside the head, that was not an appropriate action. All it would teach her is to hit and to fear me. (Have I mentioned we don’t believe in hitting our kids? Now is the perfect time. Because let me assure you that your children know how to push EVERY button you have. I completely understand the desire to smack a kid. Fortunately, I am a reasonable adult (well, most of the time :-p) and I have enough self control to understand that this is NOT an option. I don’t want to contribute to society’s violence!) Anyways, I realized I had to change. So I changed. I took a deep breath, I put on my Mary Poppins voice, and I got down on her level. Prior to this I had been picking her up and placing her back on the mat. I kneeled down and looked at my crying baby girl. I gave her a hug and talked to her. I told her that because she had pushed her brother she needed to sit down on her pooh bear rug and have a timeout. I held her hand and we walked back over to the rug. When she got there I asked her to sit down. I told her that I knew she was tired (this was right before nap) and that as soon as she was done with timeout, she could go to sleep. As she sat down I pulled out my iphone. I set the timer for two minutes (apparently, children should have a timeout that lasts one minute per the number of years old that they are). I explained that she needed to listen for the bell that would tell her when timeout was over. She repeated me, saying “I’m dunna listen for da bell”. Yes, at this point all my frustration and anger melted completely away, if it hadn’t already, and I fell in love with my little monster DD all over again. So, I know you are supposed to walk away and let the kid stew in their wrongness but I think my 2 year olds are too young for that. They are too easily distracted and won’t remember to think about what they’ve done wrong. Instead, I talked calmly to her. I told her to keep listening for the bell, but while she was sitting there, to think about how it’s not nice to push brother. How she need to think about how pushing can cause owies. How she doesn’t like it when brother pushes her, so she shouldn’t push brother either. I spoke slowly and calmly, reminding her to listen for her bell every so often. I also told her that she would need to tell momma and brother sorry when she got up. She told me sorry right then.
So, I have learned that this new and improved timeout works for me and my kids. Both have very different personalities so I’m hoping that it will work for you too! Please feel free to add any timeout details that have worked for you in the comments below. I’m wondering how old they will be before they will actually contemplate what they have done wrong all on their own?
For an updated post on this subject click HERE.
My husband and I have chosen to feed our children (and ourselves) organic foods when they are an option. We haven’t gotten obsessive with going organic. We don’t insist that every food that goes into their mouths has an organic label on it. We don’t WANT to pay more for their food. We have decided that feeding them healthy foods is worth the extra effort and $acrifice. I have recently learned that canned foods expose their consumers to BPA, and this has sparked yet another change in our diet. I put the extra effort (most of the time) into cooking beans, roasting tomatoes, and buying tuna in tetra packages, instead of preparing these foods from a can.
What’s the struggle and why? If you set two strawberries (one organic and one littered with pesticides) side by side, I won’t tell you that the organic one will taste better. I will tell you that I’d rather avoid the strawberry that may lead to cancer, negatively
effect my nervous system and/or endocrine (hormone) system, or irritate my skin and or eyes. I surely wouldn’t hand one to my developing baby or child, knowing that it could damage them. (For more information about the ill effects of pesticides please see this link to the EPA’s page on pesticides HERE.) I painfully submit to my children’s pleas for fruits of all kinds when we are out to eat or at a friend or family’s house – but only if I haven’t packed an alternate fruit of my own. Grapes and strawberries are some of the most treated fruits out there and I will often steer my kids clear of the kind gestures to share non-organic ones.
I think our society will look back at pesticides with disgust in the near future, similar to the way I now see smoking. It makes me think back to when I was a kid. Women smoked while pregnant, so what if it led to lighter birth weight – less for them to push out!- right?! Uh, no. Family members smoked around kids. It was all over TV, the movies, and restaurants. When I travel to states that still have a smoking section I feel like I traveled back in time 50 years. I have friends and family members that smoke. I’m not condemning them. They have made a personal choice and it led to a hell of an addiction. But I try to avoid second hand smoke like the plague. I don’t even mean to wrinkle up my nose and make the coughing sounds I do when walking past someone smoking. My point is, I try to avoid exposing my children to things that MAY harm them.
Why then, is it such a struggle to get others on board? No, I don’t expect my playgroup moms to purchase all organic ingredients for the muffins they have so generously prepared in celebration of their child’s birthday. What I do expect is if you are going out of your way to buy my kids some melon, pick the organic one or just bring a big hug instead. Please don’t tempt them away from the wonderful well rounded meal I have set in front of them with tales of dessert. My kids don’t know that word yet. As a general rule I don’t give them candy. They have had a few organic lollipops and a few cupcakes and a few cookies. They don’t get a sugar filled treat after dinner right before bed every night.
I’m trying to instill a healthy diet in them early on. I want them to crave an orange instead of an OREO when they are 10 years old. Sure I expect them to indulge once in a while but if they learn how to love eating veggies now, maybe while they are in college eating nothing but pizza, they will miss the garlic salt and parmesan roasted zucchini of their younger years. Maybe they will suffer less migraines, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or out of control blood sugars that the rest of their elder family members struggle with.
Raising kids is HARD work. I struggle to keep from raising my voice at them during this “terrible twos” stage (which really starts at 18 months and lasts until 3 or 4, right?). I’m trying to grow them into considerate, kind, loving people by setting boundaries, rules and schedules. I talk to them and explain “why?” as much as I can. They are learning in every moment! I remind myself to tell my husband thank you and please and give kisses in front of the kids so that they learn from example. I’m no where NEAR perfect and have raised my voice at them, taken my own momma time outs, and set poor examples as well. I’m trying. Support is always welcome. I love when my mother’s helpers (past and present) observe the way I redirect the twins, explain right from wrong, or give time outs, and then they remain consistent with my methods in their interactions with my children.
I hope that you have support in your parenting choices. It can be daunting to make “unique” decisions when it comes to your kids. Many people have looked at me strangely after revealing that we have chosen to cloth diaper (no we don’t use diaper pins), not spoon feed our twins baby food (responses went from “What?!? They’re gonna choke!” to “Wow, they really eat well for their age!”), eat mostly organic, grow some of our own food, keep the kids on a nap and bedtime schedule – even when it means that we don’t get to do some things that we would like to do. That’s life as a parent right? You sacrifice some of the things you want, so that your children can have what you hope will be a better life than you had. Hugs to all you parents doing the best you can. That’s all we can do.
Recently I went to a Mother’s of Multiples convention. It was great fun and they had a few workshops you could choose to attend. The one I got the most out of was a workshop about toddler discipline put on by Karyn Searcy-Bair, M.A. (speech & language therapist) and Sherry Casper, Ph.D. (behavioral & Developmental Psychologist. They had many great tips for the room full of moms who were able to get away from their toddlers for a weekend. Their emphasis was on consistency and communication. I have started reading a few books on discipline but have yet to finish any. It was sooooo nice to get question/answer time with these two ladies to address some of our main concerns.
The first point that I remember from this workshop was to keep your communication simple. Don’t give long drawn out explanations of why we are or aren’t supposed to do this or that. Example: My son throws his sippy cup to the ground while eating. I say “no cups on the ground”. After this, I remove his cup from the ground and put it on the table away from his reach (off his tray). If he wants a drink, I let him have it and put it back on the table after he is done. He has lost his cup for this meal but will get it back at the next meal to try agin. It is important not to give a big emotional reaction to undesirable behavior because children like attention. They will get it any way they can. If you don’t give it to them for their good behavior, they will behave badly and get a reaction (and your attention) that way.
The second point that stood out to me was consistency or follow through. Sherry suggested that you never ask a child to do something you can’t physically make them do. This sounds horrible at first but let me give you an example. Today my wild ones were throwing fits. They were done in the play area I can see from the kitchen (where I keep them while I cleanup after meals). They wanted out. They started throwing fits and whining. I went over to get them to pick up this play area before we went into “the big room”. I did my usual “books away…. toys away” in a sing-songy voice. (This we learned from our Kindermusik teacher and it works – if used consistently – in all areas, bath toys, books, whatever). They cried and tried to climb out of the play area. So I used my new found technique. I repeated “books away, toys away” then counted to three (not OOOONNNEEE, TWOOOO, THREEEE!!!!) but just a nice “one, two, three” with a little excitement on the three, and then took their hands in my hands (one kid at a time), grabbed a book or toy with their hands, and walked them through the motions of putting the toys or books away. Yes, this kinda sucks. They did continue to cry for about two minutes of this but….. then, they got excited to help. I also say “thank you (name here) for helping mommy put they book/toys away”! This gets them excited about helping because they get approval for their positive behavior. Oh the turn around! Mind you, this is not an easy task. It is really hard to put that “happy face” on when you are totally annoyed by a bunch of whining. It is difficult to put the Mary Poppins in your voice when you have a migraine. But what a difference it makes in the response from the kids. The hard work of consistent discipline makes life SOOOO much easier later on.
Explaining what is expected of them in simple language will get you a long way as well. If you snatch things away from them that they aren’t supposed to have, they learn to snatch. I try to put out my hand and say “not for (name here)” and then tell them briefly why. PS if they are crying – they aren’t hearing you.
Another great tip was from “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”. He suggests that when your child has hurt themselves not to say “you’re ok, you’re ok!” even though we know they are (most of the time). Instead, validate their feeling by saying “owie”! or “ouch”! to show them you understand they are hurt. This works with any feeling. If they are mad about sharing a toy he suggests saying “MAD, MAD, MAD”! so that they calm down realizing you are identifying with them. Then redirect their behavior.
These have been great tips for me and I hope they will help you as well. I’ll post more when I learn them!