Timeouts are kicking my butt.
You’ve seen SuperNanny work her magic with a Naughty step but when you try it at home your toddler won’t stay in one spot and cries so hard she starts to choke. What should be a three-minute timeout ending with an apology and sweet cuddle quickly escalates into a two-hour debacle that only ends because you’re both so exhausted that one of you falls asleep. The other one heads straight for the wine. Or the chocolate. Probably both.
Do them properly or don’t do them at all.
Timeouts are tricky. When done well, the mere mention of one will make your child instantly stop pulling the cat’s tail, splashing water out of the tub, or tickling the baby’s nostril (at least, that’s what he SAID he was doing), but when not done well, your threat will only make your child laugh. In your face. Timeouts are super effective when implemented properly and enforced consistently, but therein lies the problem. It’s easy for SuperNanny to ignore a child freaking out and hurling insults at her because it’s not her kid. Our emotional attachments to our children make it that much harder to time them out. Kids quickly figure out how to push our buttons, ranging from sympathy (looking so pathetic you’ll take pity on them) to anger (spewing so much hatred from their mouths you’re shocked they even know those words). Once we give in and release them from their prison, they know they’ve won and can win again the next time you try to enforce some crazy rule.
The key to timeouts is to have little to no interaction with your child after the initial explanation. As soon as you start responding to their questions, insults, and pleas, you become sucked into their world and it’s only a matter of time before they wear you down. Although you might need to physically put them on a timeout, cuddling while you do so will only make it harder to walk away. And if you’re holding them to keep them from bolting, your timeout is not working. Restraining them may not seem like cuddling to you, but on some difficult days they’ll misbehave, desperately, simply to feel your touch. Another important aspect of timeouts is to use them sparingly. The punishment should fit the crime whenever possible, so brainstorm other discipline techniques for situations when your immediate response is typically to issue a timeout. Natural consequences always work the best!
Children want all of your attention all of the time. They’ll take it from you any way they can get it, even if it’s negative. If you’re having a lot of power struggles, negative attention is likely the majority of the attention they’re getting these days. Re-thinking your approach to timeouts and alternating with other disciplinary tactics will help so your child doesn’t feel so under attack. Once you’ve got a happier kid, you’ll be a happier parent, so your kid will be happier, so you’ll be happier, which makes your kid even happier, which makes you… do you see where we’re going with this?
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