Disciplinary Action

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.

Time Outs.

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?

12 thoughts on “Disciplinary Action”

  1. •Sometimes when we ask him if he is ready to say sorry he says “No.” So he stays in timeout longer. His call.

    I love that. I’d stay in timeout forever. Screw you guys.

    My kid can’t say sorry yet. We usually just distract him. He’s like a rollercoaster of emotions: scream, hit, throw head into wall, stop and watch, giggle, cuddle, whine and melt on to floor, repeat.

  2. “Making up is probably even more important than any “discipline.” ”

    This is so key. I love this. Teaching them the correct way to come out of it is so important. Kids will do not-okay things, they are kids and they are supposed to be learning, but I think there is a lot “no, that is not okay, that is bad” (like from teachers, society, etc) and then not a lot of help/cues/how-to in terms of how to handle it once it’s happened (which can sometimes to feelings of shame and/or confusion on the kids part). We did a lot of this kind of firm no, then reminder, then final consequence (time out, ie) thing in South Africa with the toddlers (especially ones that had come from households with few parent figures, none, or poor ones) and even though it was hard for them to understand the consequence at first, they ended up responding well to it, and trusting us more because of it. You guys rock!

  3. What’s the timeout spot like? Is it a corner? Is there a chair? Does he face into the room? Away from the room?

    I really like the idea of letting Gabe pace it out for himself. Learning to manage your own emotions is SO HUGE. Snaps for that.

    1. He faces out, he does not face a wall. Although: hahaha that image. It’s a spot on the rug between the eating space of the kitchen and our book shelf. It’s a tiny no-man’s-land. It’s where the shark photo booth was hanging.

  4. We have a ‘Calm (the F***) Down’ mini-couch that sits in a corner of the hallway that faces our front door and so he can see cars zooming past. We’ve created it as a space where he has to sit until he calms down from the yelling, screaming, lashing out space. I made a small shaker bottle with glitter in water for him to shake to shit when he’s super frustrated and he usually calms down watching the glitter settle. For us it’s more about helping him learn to control his super-huge feelings, especially when he’s really frustrated. When he’s frustrated he wants to scream and throw things and hit – he needs to know that’s not okay.

    1. I LOVE the shaker idea. When Gabe is a little older and can understand a little better (right now I say “I know you are really frustrated, but” but he doesn’t know what he feels yet.) I am absolutely going to employ this technique.

    2. When I was a nanny I employed the glitter bottle, but in a slightly different way. I would have the child hold the bottle and when they were calm enough to let the glitter settle then we could talk about coming out of time out. It’s a great tool!!

      1. Oooo I like this too! I think ultimately each kid/each age group needs their own little twists.

        So you literally just put glitter in water? This is all we’re talking?

        1. From what I’ve seen – coloured water with contrasting coloured glitter works really well. So purple / red water with silver / gold giltter. Or clear / yellow water with blue / green / purple / whatever glitter.
          LJs daycare had them in the infants room – there were many times I caught several watching, entranced, especially if light was also falling on them!
          Just make sure you super glue the bottle shut 🙂

        2. I put some blue food colouring in water so it was a darkish blue, then added silver glitter and little silver and blue and purple glitter stars… This was during our ‘space’ play theme so we had all that stuff handy.

  5. Go, all you awesome parents! Thank you for raising little people to manage their emotions and heed discipline. You’re doing the world a serious favor in the long run. 🙂 That is all.

  6. Ack! Late to the blog comment space but I am so thankful you did a post to explain your timeouts. We are verryyy close to starting – baby2 is a key motivator, ie we want this to feel like a family habit before we are sleep-deprived with a newborn. I simply can not imagine Z sitting in one place though, and I read not to make the location a power struggle of its own, so I think we will be resurrecting the pack-n-play for this purpose. And i adore(!!) the glitter calm down shaker as something to have in that playpen for him. Awesome discussion, much appreciated !!

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