Saturday, September 21, 2013

Time-Outs & Time-Ins

After having a very frustrating day dealing with an impossibly defiant child, I decided that I needed to reevaluate my discipline techniques and possibly make some changes. As children grow and evolve, caregivers should recognize, rethink, and respond. I've had too many power struggles this week, all of which could have been avoided had I just done something differently.

Currently I have a couple ways of dealing with unacceptable behavior. First and foremost I ask the child to please stop doing whatever it is they are doing and I give a reason why. Or if it's a house rule that has been broken, I will ask the child if that type of behavior is allowed at Chelsea's house. The answer is always no, of course, but cheeky children like to smile and say yes. From there, they're either redirected to a new activity, a different part of the play area, or in some cases, a Time-Out.

I love using redirection. It doesn't usually evoke those strong tantrum feelings that issuing a Time-Out does. It's so simple and it feels mostly positive. I'm giving the child an alternative, not an order and the child often has some say in it. The problem I have with redirection is that if it doesn't work, I have to take things to the next level, and there are some instances where redirection isn't appropriate.

At Chelsea's house, you get one warning to try and correct your behavior yourself. I firmly believe that the more warnings and chances you give a child, the more and more chances and warnings you'll have to give in the long run and you won't actually make any progress. Imagine your city's by-law stated that a police officer could pull you over for speeding and give you a warning 3-5 times at his discretion before issuing a ticket. At what point would you minimize your speeding? Do you see where I'm going with this? Kids are playing roulette wondering how many times they can get away with something before somebody steps in and actually hands out a ticket.

After one warning the toy or activity is taken away or cleaned up, or a Time-Out is issued. In this house, defiance and not listening are the two biggest problems. I can't redirect a child who isn't following instructions. There's no toy to take away when a child is acting defiant. The best I can do is offer a choice and let the children choose for themselves what happens next, but sometimes I need to pull rank and make an executive decision. Time-Out is the only option left it seems. But lately it feels like I'm using it too much.

So, I started researching Time-Ins. It is a place that is slightly away from others and it's purpose is to help a child learn how to calm down by themselves. The best uses for it are for when a child is having a tantrum, a child is feeling emotional, a child is frustrated, or a child just generally needs to take a break before they explode. The Time-In is equipped with a big sitting pillow and a box of sensory items to help a child get back to being calm. Things I've read include snow globes, stress balls, odd shaped or textured balls, stuffed animals, little books, container of rice and spoon for digging, mirror, crayons and paper, rubix cube, pin-wheels, bubbles, something to smell like a candle, or even an ipod to listen to relaxing music or a book on tape.

I love this idea so much and I do plan on adding it to my arsenal! But I'll be honest, I sort of have my doubts. The majority of my issues with the kids are listening/calmly defiant ones, not emotional/aggressive ones. Does a child who says in a strong, firm voice, NO, when I ask to clean up the toys need a Time-In or a Time-Out? Does a child who ignores me when I try speaking to them about their behavior deserve a Time-In or a Time-Out? Does a child who doesn't listen to instructions after being asked twice need a Time-In or a Time-Out? It's not so cut and dry.

I understand the long-term psychological advantages of using a Time-In over a Time-Out in certain instances, but for my specific plight, I'm still confused. Time-Out is supposed to be a brief withdrawal from attention to calm down and reflect. Time-In can be preventative, should last as long as the child needs it to, and is supposed to teach a child appropriate ways to calm down, reflect, and analyze.

Discipline means to teach, not to punish. It certainly seems like Time-In should do a better job of that. But for a child that's already not listening, will asking them to have a Time-In really make a difference? I can't force a kid to sit on a pillow and shake a snow globe. Then that's just a cushy Time-Out with toys, isn't it? Either way, Time-Outs are not effective at correcting this behavior at this time and I do not wish to waste any more energy on it. The smug satisfaction a caregiver feels when they've "won" by successfully enforcing punitive discipline tactics pushing the child to the point where he or she gives up, cries, and obeys, is not the sort of relationship I want with my kids. Ever. I'll let you know soon enough if this works out.

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