Reverse Time Out: Avoiding jail time when you have a wild child
Reverse time out is a technique my daughter pulled out of me when she was 3 years old. It was brilliant. Ask my daughter. She’s still alive despite her repeated attempts to get me to do her in. I really never knew how angry I could feel until I had children. I scared myself. My daughter gave me the chance to rethink my evil thoughts about child abuse, and at the same time, help me teach her and her brother a novel way of using the standard discipline technique called time out.
I had two children 18 months apart. As per textbook birth order theory, my first child was very obedient. When I sent him to time out, he’d march to his room. I’d feel guilty because his baby crimes were nothing compared to what I was about to experience with his little sister. I should have taken heed when my son saw his newborn sister for the first time. He was affronted! He gave me the dirtiest look, and with his ba ba (code for bottle) hanging out the side of his mouth, he demanded I get her out of my arms and hold him immediately. It was so cute. It was so telling. How did I miss that early warning sign? Could I send her back and get another one? Of course not. I was in love with my soon to be whippersnapper, sweet little daughter.
I was a trained pediatric nurse practitioner before I had children. Despite my advanced education, I was clueless as how to parent this little creature. She was nothing like my firstborn. The first time I discovered I had to parent her differently was when she was 3 years old. She was having yet another melt down, and I decided to appeal to her emotions instead of telling her to go to her room. I said, “You seem to be having a hard time.” She replied emphatically, “Yes, I Am having a hard time,” and sat down on the stairs and commenced to ball her eyes out. I went blank. Yikes! How do I respond this? So, I sat down next to her, pulled her onto my lap, and held her tight. Next step? No idea.
I recently heard my adult son tell a 3 year old, “I don’t speak baby.” It was hysterical. Looking back at that difficult parenting moment with my own 3 year old, I felt the same way. “I don’t speak baby.” Then I heard my own mother’s words echo in the back of my mind, “I hope you have one just like you!” Oh no! She cast a spell on me! My daughter is a Mini Me! I reminded myself that my job as a mother was to keep my children alive first and foremost, and with a lot of luck, launch them out of the nest as well equipped young adults capable of taking care of themselves, and contributing to society. Not an easy task.
Those who know me, know I love a good challenge. My sweet daughter reminded me of that character trait as well. She wasn’t going away unless she was taken away by child protective services, so I got to work on figuring out how to keep her alive while not breaking her spirit. It worked. My sweet daughter is alive and well at age 25. I did my job. Phew!!
Here is today’s Tip from the Trail. It’s how to use Reverse time out safely. In another post I’ll tell you some other tricks of the trade that helped me survive the trials and tribulations of parenting.
1. Parents need to be emotionally available to parent children well. Know this in advance and you are way ahead of the game before it starts. Parenting is the most rewarding job and the hardest job you will ever have. There is no operations manual, and just about every child you’ll have requires his/her own parenting style.
2. Reverse time out is a technique to use when you are not emotionally able to parent maturely. It’ll keep you from reverting back to child like behaviors yourself. The most important part of this technique is making sure they are safe when you are in your time out room. In my day, old homes had a gap under the door, thus the little fingers showing in the diagram. (compliments of Jen Rogers). Here are the steps:
A. Before you are about to explode, tell your children you need to go to time out.
B. Tell them you will set the timer for 10 minutes and to listen for the alarm so they can get you out.
C. Also, turn this into a game and explain how hard it is for you to stay in time out. Time out is to help you “change gears” and practice your slow breathing so you can do a better job being their mom.
D. To keep you in your room they need to keep their fingers under the door so you know where they are, and while they are waiting for your time out to end, they can sing and draw you pictures as they sit outside the door to keep you from being scared.
Give it a try, and please let me know how Reverse Time Out works for you.
Remember, our job is to keep those babies alive! Never go to time out unless you can ensure their safety.
Now take on the day. We only get to live this day once. Don’t miss a moment.
Happy trails, Allison