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out with the outs and in with the ins

I’d long ago learned that time outs were a faux pas according to many parenting experts. This didn’t stop me from using them, but they rarely served their purpose and may have been more damaging to my relationship with our boys as a spanking would. I wasn’t doing them right.  With J, a time out would often escalate to me threatening, or actually, locking himself somewhere just so he would stay put, like in the bathroom, or on a chair under the pergola. He would vehemently oppose being locked away from us, beg and plead to be given another chance, which we would, but then end right back there two minutes later because he’d come out and refuse to serve his time out sentence. I always felt bad about locking him away, tried to convince myself it was for his own good, and usually lost sight of the why behind it all. The times he did sit, I’d wait with baited breath hoping the timer would beep before he decided enough was enough.

I don’t believe a child should be punished and want to be a champion of natural consequences, a focus I first learned about in Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!”  I need to constantly remind myself of this belief. Like when J kicks his brother and I take away the toy he is playing with and put him on a time out, that’s punishment. The kick was J telling his brother he wasn’t happy with him. It’s my job to help him communicate this more appropriately, but nothing I do or say in the heat of the moment will matter.

Enter time-ins. I’ve always known that J doesn’t like to be alone, from day one, he knew the difference between his bed and mine.  As an infant, he’d cry whenever he wasn’t being held.  For us, time in means not abandoning the boys when they need us most.  Instead of making J sit by himself and fighting him tooth and nail to get him to do so when he’s already worked up, I stay with him and help him calm down.  The other day, when J started to misbehave after I said he couldn’t have any more chocolate, I asked J how I could help him work through being upset.  To my surprise, instead of ignoring me and continuing his usual course of throwing things, he actually asked me for a hug.  Finding the best way to calm him down is still a work in progress, but using a time in feels right.

Judy Arnall talks about time-in in “Discipline Without Distress,” and here’s  one other article I came across.