Here’s the scene:
It’s 4:00pm we just got home from school, and daycare. We have an hour before dad gets home and from then 30 minutes until we eat dinner, then it’s off to the bedtime races with an attempted lights out at 7:00pm sharp. It’s like clockwork every single day. The dinner plan? Not quite sure yet. Maybe chicken and some form of vegetable like every other night.
Within minutes of walking in the door, my youngest is pining for me, my oldest is nagging me with a script she needs to me say for yet another pretend princess game, and my middle is already in tears because he can’t find his red car. I scoop up the littlest one and haul him around on my hip, say the lines my oldest feeds me for our pretend game as I walk into the playroom to help the middle guy. I remember (who knows how) that I saw the red car in the laundry room wrapped up in a rag (he was sleeping) and so I decide to be the hero and go and get it.
“Darby will you please play with Pierce for just a minute while I go get Hewitt’s car? I will be right back.”
I race upstairs and before I get to the top, Hewitt is crying again, then Piece starts in, and Darby is off wrapping up her baby bear in the other room so she can take a nap. I come downstairs thinking I saved the day, and hand Hewitt his red car. Immediately he throws it across the playroom and shouts, “No! different car!” I feel my internal temperature rise along with my rage. Take a breath, walk away. He proceeds to melt down and I ignore him as I pull the chicken out of the fridge, set it on the counter, all while baby is still on hip.
I wanted to put Hewitt on the steps and tell him he was in time out for throwing, and for yelling but I didn’t. The truth is he’s really to young to understand time out, and on top of that, realize that he’s in time out on the stairs for something he did in the playroom. Out of desperation, I took another breath, went back in the playroom and started building a ramp (a sure win in his book) out of blocks. After just a minute or two, he came and sat next to me, and we happily built together for 30 minutes. Darby eventually joined in, and Pierce was happy just to be with everyone. Dinner was a little late but my kids were happy.
Later that evening I reflected on my choice, my choice to have a time in rather than a time out. I wondered, does time out even work? Does it teach the lesson that needs to be taught? Perhaps it offers the parent a little short term reprieve but in the long run is the problem really being solved? Am I being the parent I want to be? I googled a little and came across this article. Positive discipline can be tricky. Not giving attention to negative behavior can also be tricky. Finding the patience and compassion for time in is tricky for sure, but most often what everyone needs. Next time your kiddos need a little guidance think about how much time in they are really getting. My guess is, less than desireable behavior is a call for some attention, for some time in. Sadly, time in can be a very challenging thing to keep up on, but the rewards are endless.