Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

No More Time Outs

on February 27, 2012

Audrey surprised me by reaching a knife this way! Would time outs have stopped her from climbing up here? Doubtful.

I’ve become aware of the trend moving parents away from the now-long-standing discipline of time outs. Just one issue with it is that kids are usually isolated during a time out. And since kids act out when they have a need that’s not being met (in our case it’s more attention they want), putting them in an isolated time out leaves that need unmet, causing more angst and potentially creating the long-term tendency to bottle up feelings.

I have to admit to an early vague sense of unease about the banishment aspect of time outs. That said, I probably would have employed it if we had space in our house. Because I hadn’t taken the time to think through why it was unsettling, and in the back of my mind I figured “Well, this has been the standard advice for a couple of decades now, so there must be something to it.” I mean had to DO something to send my message, right?

As it was, I used time outs during the heaviest spate of the twins’ banging on the windows, biting, throwing, and hitting. The girls had just discovered each behavior and were both engaging in all of them all day, every day, for a couple of weeks. It was exasperating! I sensed I had to put a stop to these dangerous/hurtful behaviors, so I automatically employed the time out method. The girls were only about 15 months old, so this meant that I held them, hands on knees, in the corner for about 40 seconds. Then let them go without any further lecture. (Now I see that I got lucky in not being able to banish them to another room or isolated spot, which likely would have made it more painful. However, any sort of punishment avoids the base need, so it’s a temporary, and even inappropriate, fix.)

They’d always giggle at first, then sometimes start to cry a bit. But here’s a lesson that came quickly and directly because of having twins: while one was in time out, the other wanted to be in time out! So instinctively, I knew that the entire “issue” was that they wanted my attention. The undesirable behaviors were simply the girls’ attempt to get more of ME, but I still used time outs because they had started to work. The girls learned the things they weren’t supposed to do and stopped doing them, in just a couple of weeks.

Now, the norm is that they don’t do those things. But when they are hungry and mom is finishing painting a fence outside their window (“I know you are hungry…I’m almost done…I’ll be right there!”) they start throwing their toys out and, if that doesn’t get me inside, banging on the window! Of course! Because it’s not that they don’t know that it’s disallowed behavior. It’s that, if they need or want me, they simply don’t care! Makes sense, right?

I am so glad this issue came to my attention, because I now realize I give a lot of thought to a lot of things but I hadn’t gotten to thinking over “discipline” techniques yet. And since my main objective is to respect my children, I’d like to find another way to teach them the rules.

The article that I refer to in my first blog post mentions that the French don’t use the word “discipline” the way we do—the author is met with “…you mean educate…?” when she brings it up. And this sort of makes you think. Yes, education is the goal. So how exactly does punishment help the learning process?

I think not using punishment takes more attention from the parents but is likely to yield better results—confident, secure children and then, adults. More time. Just like every issue facing us, kids need tons of our time and attention. And of course it’s not possible to become completely unproductive aside from child-rearing. But with the right amount of attention given them, they’ll go on their merry way for little stretches of time (and yes, I have twins who play together, but many singletons can do this also, and a singleton typically doesn’t brawl with herself either, so it’s a trade-off the way I see it) and those little stretches are what you need to grab…no lollygagging! When you see contentment on their faces, run away and get to journaling, or chopping veggies for dinner, or painting the fence, or reading something! And come back soon with lots of smiles, hugs, and help with that puzzle or book.

I’m going to be looking more into the idea of Positive Discipline (I have this book, actually) and I will share my impressions soon. In the meantime, I have to check out my new knitting book while the babies are asleep!

Here are a couple of articles, the first one is especially helpful:

Timeouts: Good, Bad, or Unnecessary? by Dr. Laura Markham

Positive discipline: Why time-outs don’t work  by Susan Stiffelman

Oops! Too late. They are up. 🙂

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