On instagram last week there was a discussion about timeouts and it started a discussion about how we discipline, what are the approaches I take (What are the approaches you take?) and when. How do they work? What are we doing and why?
So here we go.
This topic makes me anxious because it is RIPE, ripe for judging. But so is what cleaning products we use, and so is what diapers I buy and so is all the things, so fuck it.
We started trying these on occasion a little bit after Gabe turned 1. At around 12 months Gabe started tantruming. It was a hard time and I believe it’s a hard age. They lack communication skills, but they know what they want more and more, they are fairly immobile (aside from crawling in Gabe’s case), and they have big feelings in tiny bodies with few ways to express them. We started time outs to give Gabe a space to emote outside of whatever was actually happening. And it was also a way for us to feel a teeeeensy bit more in control of the situation. As a parent what do you do? You have no idea what they need, they are pissed and lashing out, you’ve tried several options and things are still escalating so it is time to step back from the situation. Time out it is. It was good practice for Kamel and I as we waded, ever so gently, into the world of discipline, and it created a consequence that Gabe, at almost 2, can understand. We’ve been doing timeouts for almost a year, but most consistently and to best effect for the last 6 months I would say.
Here’s the breakdown of how we do it:
- First we explain which behavior is not ok in a firm direct tone. “We do not hit. Hitting is not nice. There is NO hitting Gabriel.”
- Then we give a warning. “If you hit me again, you’re going on timeout.”
- Third we always always follow through. “Ok, that’s a timeout. There is no hitting, that is not ok.”
- Timeout usually pisses off Gabe, OR he is pissed already and that is why he is acting out, so this is a time for him to cool his heels. In order to get out of timeout he needs to hug it out and say sorry with whichever parent (or sometimes both parents) put him there.
- We ask if he is ready to say sorry OR he calls to us saying sorry.
- Sometimes when we ask him if he is ready to say sorry he says “No.” So he stays in timeout longer. His call.
- Sometimes he says yes but doesn’t want to hug it out. This is our only forced touching that we do. You gotta hug it out and make up and have good feelings after a time out. It’s important. Mommy and daddy hug after we fight. Making up is probably even more important than any “discipline.” So until Gabe is ready for a full I’m sorry and a hug, he is in timeout.
Timeout is his space. We use the same spot every time. We don’t bother him when he is in there and he is not allowed to just wander out whenever he feels like it. Timeouts only last for a few minutes unless he wants to sit out longer because he isn’t ready to be nice yet. There have only been a few times early on where we had to physically put Gabe back in time out because he thought it was a game. Overwhelmingly he stays put. We never use the crib for timeout. It stops the momentum of whatever is happening, but it does not last so long that it is overly disruptive. This works for Gabe because he wants to be included and playing and part of the fun. I definitely don’t think there is just 1 way to do things, but it seems to have worked for us.
We don’t spank, we try not to yell (Though a little shock value is useful at times, esp when Gabe is about to hurt himself or if he is just out of hand and we don’t have time for a time out – like we’re walking to the car or something), we ignore him when applicable, but other than that these are all my tricks. What do you do?