Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time Outs

I gave myself a time out yesterday. No, I did not make myself sit with my back against the wall for 33 minutes (1 minute for every year of life). I went to Target and spent the obligatory $100 (expensive time out). My son has taken to whining a bit lately, and when he gets frustrated, he starts crying and whining and screaming "Mommy" over and over and over and basically has a little meltdown, as all two-year-olds generally do. My husband can completely tune it out. I cannot. I found myself getting frustrated by my son's umpteenth frustration over Legos and started to raise my voice at him to stop whining but I caught myself. Told my husband I need a time out, he told me to go ahead and take one, and off I went to Target. I'm so happy I did...I think it was good for both me and my son.

Since I'm on the topic, I started to give my son time outs a couple months ago (shortly after he turned two). I learned how to from watching Supernanny, the greatest resource on discipline that I have found to date. Sometimes it works in teaching him behavior; sometimes it doesn't. But no matter what, it is teaching him that there are consequences to behavior. I don't do it too often because I don't want him to become immune to it and I don't want him to lose his spunk. And there are other ways of dealing with behavior. I have found the greatest tips not from those websites that purport to offer tips on how to raise your child, but from the parents' comments that follow. There are some genius moms and dads out there. I think the best tip I've learned thus far is this: when my son is crying for something that he can't have, I get down to his level, repeat what it is that he wants three times, and briefly explain why he can't have it and offer an alternative. The three times idea is genius. The first time ("You want to play with scissors?"), my son can't hear me because he's crying; the second time ("You want to play with scissors?"), he catches onto the fact that I understand what it is that he wants and his crying is reduced to a whimper; by the third time ("You want to play with scissors?"), he has stopped crying and says "yes, want scissors." And then I explain why he cannot have what it is that he wants, trying my hardest to avoid the word "no" at all costs ("Scissors are dangerous and you can cut yourself..."), and as quickily as possible, change topics and redirect him to something different ("but I bet you would love to play with play doh...let's make shapes together!"). Works like a charm (nearly) every time.

I've also discovered how important it is to speak to my son at his level. That should be intuitive to me given that I am under five feet and know how intimidating it can be to have someone much bigger tell you what to do. Just the other day, I was making my son breakfast and he kept touching a beautiful (but delicate) piece of artwork we have hanging on the wall. I kept telling him to stop, to no avail. It became a game for him. Finally, I realized I just have to stop what I'm doing. I bent down to his level; told him that artwork is not for touching but for looking; that if he feels the urge to touch, he should grab his hand and run away (he loved that). And, lo and behold, he stopped. Not saying this happens every time; but it happens most of the time and that's all that I can ask for.

Disclaimer: I have only been a mom for 2 years, 2 months, and 11 days. I am fully cognizant that my disciplinary tips and tricks might work well for me now (as in yesterday, today, and hopefully tomorrow) but will have to change as soon as my son catches on to me.

Can you see the mischief in this little boy's eyes?

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