Thursday, September 13, 2007

Positive Time-Out—You First

Create a positive time out plan for yourself. It could be a soak in the tub, getting in the shower (where kids can’t follow), going into the bathroom, locking the door, and turning on the stereo, taking a short walk (if your kids are old enough), sitting on the floor in the lotus position and chanting—whatever works for you. Let your kids know your plan and that you will use it when you need to calm down. Be sure they know this is “for” you, not “against” them.

Does this seem like a novel idea—for you to take some time-out instead of sending your children to time-out? We all know that example is the best teacher. Sachiko Jordan, a member of the Southern CA Positive Discipline Mentor group, shares how effective it was for her to use time-out for herself.

When I read “Positive Discipline,” I liked the idea decide what you will do instead of what you make your child do. So, I decided to take a break (time-out) when I am not able to talk to my 3 ½ year-old son, Kazuya, with respect. I talked to my son and told him what I would do next time I got upset instead of sending him to punitive “time out.” I told him that I would go to my office (extra bedroom) to calm myself down and that I would come out when I was ready to talk to him nicely. I also told him while he was waiting for me to calm down, he could play or he could knock on the door when he was ready to talk to me.

The time came! We had a conflict and I was very upset. I told him that I would go upstairs as I promised. He looked at me and said, “NO!” I ignored his comment and briefly said, “See you in few minuets,” and went to my office. I heard him sobbing and I did not feel comfortable. I was anxious about whether or not this would work. Well, 5 minutes later he knocked on my door and said, “Mommy, I am ready to talk to you.” He was not crying anymore. I opened the door and gave him a big hug and said, “I am ready to talk to you too. Thank you for coming to let me know you are ready.” Then, we took turns talking about how we felt at the time of the conflict. We went through this process several times.

One day, Kazuya was not in a good mood and started whining when he was told to get ready to go grocery shopping. We were not in a hurry and I did not want to say anything to him. I gave him a hug and said, “I will take time out.” He did not say anything and did not seem upset. When I got upstairs, I noticed he was just behind me. I thought he would try to get me. I was wrong! He was walking towards to his room. “Mommy, I take time out, too. I play with my race cars.”

When I heard that comment, my time-out was technically over. I had big smile on my face. I wanted to say, “Forget about time-out! Let’s play.” However, I didn’t do it because I knew he was not ready and needed some time to calm down. I knocked on his door after five minutes to see if he was ready to play with me for 10 minutes before we would be ready to go. He was very happy to play with me for 10 minutes and had fun with grocery shopping.

I knew time-out was not really recommended for children under the age of 4-years-old. However, when I read Positive Discipline, I instantly felt that positive time-out would work for my son. I learned the value of modeling positive time-out by going to my time-out instead of sending him to time-out. I spent a lot of time explaining PTO to him and allowed him to knock on my door when he was ready to talk to me. I also decided not to lock myself in the bathroom. I chose a PTO place next to his room where my son knew it would be unlocked all the time. I am very happy that PTO is one of most effective Positive Discipline techniques for my son—to teach him self-control until he is ready to interact lovingly and joyfully!!!

Sachiko’s story so beautifully illustrates several positive discipline concepts.

1) Modeling. Sachiko was able to communicate that positive time out is not a bad thing since she is so willing to do it herself. Children love to follow our lead—much more than being pushed to do what we want.

2) Combining positive discipline tools. Sachiko combined modeling positive time-out with “deciding what you will do.” Sachiko couldn’t make her son give up his temper tantrum, but she could decide to take care of herself until he was ready to interact cooperatively.

3) Being kind and firm at the same time. Sachiko provides an excellent of kind and firm when she hugs her child while remaining firm.

4) Planning in advance, including children when possible, and/or informing children in advance what you plan to do. Sachiko applied these tools when modeling positive time-out, and in her next story.

Sachiko wanted to involve her child in finding solutions to challenges. One challenge they faced was her son’s resistance to leaving the park when it was time. She involved him in a plan to use her cell phone as a timer. He could choose the ring tone that would indicate when it was time to leave. She would give him a 15 minute warning before the ring tone would sound the alarm that it was time to leave. When the alarm rang, he son told his friend it was time to leave.

This illustrates how powerful very simple tools can be. They are powerful because they are respectful and help children use their power to cooperate instead of feeling the need to engage in power struggles.

To hear a discussion of these concepts, and to hear Sachiko share her success stories, go to to listen to the podcast.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Yikes! I need help. I am a preschool teacher and also a parent of 2 children ages 7 and 10. Even though I "know better", I have fallen into a horrible pattern with my youngest. (I have read your books and listen to your podcast. I find your advice so sound and common sense and kind.) I love this child with all my heart but end up in horrid power struggles. It seems as if our days together flow from one whiny, demanding tantrum to another. I am trying many of your techniques and am able to do ok some of the time. We used to use 1 2 3 Magic but found that my daughter would not go to "take 5" when asked and just escalated. When I try to remove myself (we have talked about taking a break, going to chill out, not wanting to talk when we are angry, but she follows me, screaming, banging and kicking on doors, grabbing on to me... this morning I took the dog for a walk to get away and she came after me, screaming in her pjs down the street!) I am ashamed to say that more than once I have yelled at her and even spanked her because I get so upset. Before having children, the one thing I knew for certain was that I did not believe in spanking. I know that it does no good and sends the completely wrong message. It is ironic that I am so good at my job. I never lose my temper with children at school and am told by parents and co-workers that I am a wonderful resource on behavior issues. Why am I such a mess with this poor little girl of mine? I know that she is feeling unloved and badly about herself. No matter how hard I try, nothing seems to work. I guess my big question is what to do when she follows me when I am trying to take a break and calm down.