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Monday, August 30, 2010

Discipline for the Three of Us

If you read my blog semi-regularly, you've probably deduced that I do not just show the perfect side of my life.  I feel like this is the place I want moms to be able to come and see that they are not alone in their parenting struggles.  So, here I am, about to share my newest and most frustrating parenting struggle.

Addie won't take a time out to save her life.  I tried everything to get her to realize that this is not play time.  She just continues hitting/biting/screaming/throwing as soon as she gets out, because apparently my reaction is funny.  I've tried different reactions: calm and collected, angry and yelling, sad and hurt. 

We've been battling the time out issue for a few months now, right around the time that it became necessary to teach her right and wrong.  All of my other mommy friends seem to have flown through this transition easily, giving me the advice of "If she runs out of time out, just put her back and make her stay there until her time is up."  and "All kids run out of time out at first, you have to teach her that that is not okay, even if it means you have to stand behind her the first few times and make sure she doesn't move."  The thing is, even after months of time outs, Addie still runs right out.  Nothing I have done will make her stay in time out.  Eventually, we came up with the rule that after she ran out of time out 3 times, we put her in her room with the door closed until her time out was done.  This worked really well for awhile, but it may have hurt us in the long run.  Now, Addie can reach on top of her shelves and dresser, and can open the door and come out. That means even if I put a spinny-thing on her door knob or stand on the other side holding the door closed, she can still get into things to entertain herself in her room.

When good girls stay in time out, they get special tattoo stickers as a reward! Can you be a good girl in time out?

Tonight though, after a friend seeing just how out of hand our time out situation is, I had to come up with a new plan. I mean, she recommended that I watch Nanny 911.  Things can't be so out of control that I need Nanny 911.  They just can't.  I can't be at that point, because that means I'm one of those parents that doesn't have control of her child. I can't be that mom.

Once Addie went to bed, I opened up the trusty Google.com website and typed in "toddler time outs".  A whole slew of websites came up, so I decided to go with the site I trusted in the newborn stage.  I needed something that wasn't a parenting forum, I just wanted advice this time straight from the experts.  Advice from other parents hasn't worked so far in this situation, so why turn to virtual moms, right? (no offense).

I found this article called "Time-Outs: How to Make Them Work".  It looked perfect, and you know what? It may be perfect.  The second paragraph almost made me cry tears of relief that I wasn't alone.

Because toddlers find it hard to sit still, trying to make your little one stay in a certain place for a prescribed length of time may well disintegrate into a chase scene. Here's what happens: Your child runs away from his time-out spot. You catch him, then struggle to make him stay in one place. You threaten, he laughs, delighted with this new game — or cries, frustrated by the requirement. You grab, he bolts. Meanwhile, because he has a short attention span, your toddler forgets why you wanted him to sit still in the first place. Instead of helping your child regain his self-control, you find yourself in a power struggle.

This is it! This is exactly what happens in our house! So it is normal!

According to the article, this scene means that your child is not developmentally ready for a traditional time out.  Instead, they recommend things called "positive time out," meaning you just remove them from the frustrating situation and have time to calm down together.  Things like reading a book or doing a puzzle or listening to calming music.  The main goal is to allow both of you a minute or two to calm down and stop focusing on the "bad" activity.

The article reminds you right away that time out is not a punishment, but "an opportunity for your child to learn how to cope with frustration and modify his behavior."   It stresses that this is a more positive way to discipline and teach, rather than yelling and spanking which are considered more negative attention.

I honestly don't know why I didn't think of this sooner.  It fits so well with how I've parented from the beginning.  It will take some patience and practice, but Willie and I have come up with a new game plan.

Based on what we read tonight, we are going to give up on the traditional time outs for now.  When Addie gets out of hand, we will try reading a book or going to another room for some quiet time together first.  We will both practice not yelling and raising our temper at her over typical toddler behavior, because we don't want to encourage negative attention.

In return, we have also talked and decided that we need to go back to taking a more active role in our parenting.  I think during all of our hard times during the first year, we got so excited once Addie could entertain herself that we both backed away and "took a break."  I feel awful admitting it, but often at home I just leave Addie to her toys and do my thing, be it shop work or chores around the house.  I get frustrated when she wants attention from me, and tell her to go play.  I toss out some crayons or crackers and continue what I was doing. 

Working from home-especially working on my own business-is very stressful and time consuming, and it's beginning to show.  My life feels a little out of control lately in many aspects.  It's time to get back to the basics.  I'm going to be setting times to work, and times to play.  I'm going to come up with activities to do with Addie, and we'll have some structured play time in our day again.  After all, what is the point of staying home with my daughter if I don't take the time to enjoy it?

So, I felt like I needed to lay all of this out in the open.  This is my new promise to myself, and I feel like laying it all out here on my blog will help hold myself accountable.

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