Why is it that the easiest and often first reactions when your child is acting out are "do you want to go to timeout?!!!" and how about the classic "if you don't stop by the time I get to three, then you are going to be in big trouble?" I think that every single parent has used a similar threat in times of exhausted desperation. As you've likely realized, those threats don't have much merit with a fired up kid. So what do you do?
It has been proven by science and parent experience time and time again that parenting by providing safety, connection, sound reasoning, and of course a whole lot of love promotes a more agreeable relationship between parent and child. Less old-fashioned discipline certainly seems to do more for a defiant or stubborn child. The argument is that when a child is acting out, they need your love and attention much more than when they are behaving like little angels.
Big feelings lead to confusion for adults, so it is only fair to acknowledge that big feelings cause a lot of stress and confusion for a young child as well. They definitely experience those feelings but they can't reason through them like we can, or like we expect them to a majority of the time. That being said there are times that because of circumstance or surroundings, the irate child needs to be controlled and removed from the situation.
In our house, we have adopted a practice that is a sort of a spin-off of the traditional timeout. It has been working wonderfully for our three-year-old and for us as mom and dad! We call it "taking a break" and we do it with our daughter. Rather than banishing her to her room or a corner alone, we go with her to work through the fit or meltdown together!
We find a space that is more quiet and calm than her current surroundings, go with her there, and take a few minutes to help her reset. Sometimes we carry her there kicking and screaming, and other times she recognizes the stress she is feeling and follows voluntarily. Sometimes she wants to be held, and other times she won't even stand close to us. We acknowledge how she is feeling and ask her if she wants to tell us why she is upset. The true key is that we are there with her, rather than marching her to timeout and closing the door behind us as we march right back out of the door.
This also allows us to see her point of view and attempt to grasp why she was acting like such a crazed person. It also provides the opportunity for us to remember that we also need to chill out and act like the adults in the relationship. Nothing makes a toddler more out of control than a parent that is acting just as out of control as the toddler! I am far from a perfect parent so I have been there and done that plenty of times before. Not proud of it, but just trying to be real!
Is our child a perfect angel every time we do this? Nope. But that truly isn't the main purpose of it. The purpose is that we are aiding our little lady to understand the way she is feeling and help her learn and remember to react and behave in a way that is acceptable. Although the "taking a break" method isn't a perfect method, it has helped in our house an impressive amount! Give it a shot and see what you think. If you have any other tried and true parenting methods that we have to hear about, leave them in a comment! I always love to be inspired by other parents!
Written by: Alyssa Liston