28 Oct

I don’t write often enough here about my failings as a parent.  And there are many of them.  You see?  I have what I’m learning to reframe as a “spirited” child.  She’s full throttle all. the. time.  And though I love her more deeply than I ever understood one person could love another, most days the degree to which I am grateful for her bedtime feels wrong.

This morning we argued over whether there were socks in her hamper.  Over what kind of toy she wanted to bring for “M” week at school.  She chased her sister around the house instead of putting on her shoes despite my pleadings, only to finally stop in her tracks to debate with yell at me about the practicality of sandals in the wintertime.  By the time I dropped her at the brick pathway, we were both relieved to be rid of the other’s company.

It’s like that all day long.  Nothing is simple.  Nothing is done just for the love of pleasing her mother or father.  Everything must be on her terms and those?  Come with litigation-worthy dispute.

The hardest thing about having a five year old is that they are too big to just pick up and put in timeout.  They are too focused to distract with shiny keys and too stubborn to respond to force.  You must learn to convince them and to bewitch them with the illusion of control.

Hence our timeout chart:

Timeout ChartTimeouts are a great tool for parenting, but I have to remind myself constantly that discipline is about educating behavior, not about punishment (though punishment sure does feel good to an angry mom, I must admit).  And though I usually end up sending Bug up to her room to stop the conflict and give everyone a chance to cool down, I needed more.  I want her to be able to make the kinds of choices I only just learned how to make – how to recognize what she needs and react accordingly.

So now, when things get out of control, she may be asked to go choose a time out.  Sometimes she gets full control of the choice, while other times she needs to be guided to an appropriate timeout for the situation (and other times, I forget about the chart and holler at her to go sit on the carpet).  It’s a reminder to me not just to punish, but to teach.  To think, “what was happening and how can I best teach her to change her behavior?”

It’s far from perfect, but so far it seems to be helping both of us.  And as a bonus?  It comes with drawings like these.  My husband and I were both surprised and enlightened by the discrepancy between what really happened and how Bug viewed it.  It’s quite revealing – and hilarious.  The laughter helped disperse any tension over the actual conflict.

Bugs Timeout Pic 1


Bugs Timeout Pic 2

And if you’re not laughing, you’re crying, right?

Talk to me.  What works for you with your most challenging kiddo?  How do you parent your child once they’re not a toddler anymore?


6 Responses to “Timeout”

  1. addyeB October 28, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    I never thought to use a timeout chart-BRILLIANT. I love what you said about teaching vs. punishment-I’ve been navigating this the past year with Bren (age 6 now) and it’s been really, really frustrating. There are days I feel like a failure & I’m completely stumped as to what to do or how to make it more about teaching and not just punishing.

    One thing that HAS worked for us though has been putting his beloved Skylanders “in jail” (Bertski’s closet). When he doesn’t listen, or cops an attitude, or lies about something (like not washing his hands) 1-2 are taken away and put in jail where he can’t play with them until I see improvement in his attitude/behavior.

    So far, that’s been the most effective when dealing with my high spirited & opinionated child. I’m going to try the chart idea too-I’m sure it’ll even help his little brother!

  2. motherhoodisnotforsissies October 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Yes dad armchair parents and mom multitasks. Le Sigh! These are the days of my life!

  3. Raine October 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Those are great pictures! I should give my kid some markers next time I get angry at him 😉

  4. Kimberly M (@momgosomething) October 31, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    Oh my fucking Jaysus sitting on a couch while I pretend to be the worst parent on the universe that will get blamed for poor life decisions down the road….this is too funny. Chunky would never draw a picture because he hates to. He knows where his spot is on the time out chair 🙂
    No options up in here.

    • learnedhappiness November 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Haha! Don’t get me wrong. There’s a shitton of “just go up to your room,” and “go sit on the timeout mat. We DONOTHITINTHISHOUSE!” But I’m trying. Trying to yell less and teach more. Most days I fail.

  5. story November 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Dude. I thought I wrote a really insightful comment on this, weeks ago. I came back to find it for a post I meant to write. But I guess I didn’t post it. Something about you being a great parent because you know you’re good enough AND always try to get better. But the original comment was better.

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