Let’s get this straight from the get-go: Timeouts aren’t working.
You all know timeouts, and I’m not talking about the ones during a basketball game when your team is getting crushed and you need a break to regroup. Well, actually, maybe it is kind of like that, at least from the parental standpoint, only that the kid involved likely sees it as a penalty box, not a chance to take a breather.
Timeout is just the latest incarnation of the old parental standby, “Go stand in the corner.” It’s been advocated by child experts as a good way for a parent and a tot to take an escalating situation and attempt to diffuse it by having the kid stand or sit somewhere (ostensibly in quiet) while the parent takes a few deep breaths.
That’s the theory anyway.
But from my experiences with my 2½-year-old twins, I don’t think they work. Maybe it’s a flawed technique. Maybe it’s me. Or maybe it’s the fact that 2½ year olds aren’t supposed to respond to the logical consequences of their actions. Maybe it’s all just poppycock.
Take Abbey. Unfortunately for my little lass, she’s inherited her mother’s hair-trigger hot temper, coupled with the hearty dose of stubbornness. No amount of timeouts — no matter how many times she’s ripped from beloved activities – seems to stop her from repeatedly doing things that a) she’s been sternly told not to do a billion times b) will hurt her c) will hurt her twin brother or d) will make the house more of an unmitigated pigsty than it usually is by mid-day.
She seems to revel in her disobedience. It’s almost like she plans it in advance. “I’m going to torment Mommy until her eyes bug out and she’s sobbing in the corner like a baby,” I envision her saying quietly to herself as she awakens, looking deceptively like an angel with little, dark ringlets framing her pudgy, “Who me?” face. I know it’s going to be a banner timeout day when it begins with Abbey openly doing negative things to get my attention. The child-rearing books say to ignore this behavior because giving her attention reinforces her attention-getting method. But I find it hard to ignore when she picks up a plastic chair and smashes it over her brother’s head, rips books to shreds, spreads the contents of her diaper around her room and into every fiber of her rug or precariously stands atop a tall surface while holding my glass of water. It’s not that she’s a rotten or ill-mannered kid. She’s 2 1/2. And spirited, shall we say. And there’s a matching one of her kind in the boy version who also likes to test his limits, often at the same time.
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