A few days ago I browsed a blog post that talked about the difference between time-in’s and time-out’s (this isn’t the exact post but something similar I found because I couldn’t find the exact one). I had of course heard of putting children in time-out’s and have used that strategy 4 times in the past year with great results. However I had never heard of time-in’s and I was intrigued. Essentially a time-out means separating your child completely and a time-in is like a time-out for you both together. In a time-out you put your child alone in a designated spot, for time-in you sit with your child in that designated spot.
Ezekiel is 2, at that age where he is learning that he has the ability to say no and fight for what he wants. He’s a fairly reasonable child – I can usually talk him out of a temper tantrum if I catch it right at the beginning. He can be distracted by something equally as tempting as what he wants to do which is a strategy I use often (Ezekiel I’ve asked you to stop touching the things on the shelf, how about you come help me with supper instead). He also understands and follows rules if I implement them consistently – the most recent one being no toys at the table. In the beginning there were many meltdowns over that rule, but now he’s satisfied with placing his beloved toy at the foot of his highchair to play with when he’s done eating.
Side-note – meltdowns are absolutely allowed in our house, these are different from a temper tantrum. Being upset because you really want something is different then thrashing, hitting etc. because you didn’t get what you want. In the event of a melt down I simply allow him to cry for a while and then ask him to take some deep breaths, try and distract him by singing his favourite songs and continue to reinforce the rule he is upset about. That strategy works 99% of the time. 1% of the time it turns into a full blown tantrum.
Of course he’s still a two year old and still gives in to so many temptations breaking rules here and there. My general rule is that if he is breaking a rule and I’ve asked him to stop – he demonstrates he understands by stopping and then continues when I look away – if I have to ask him three times then he goes upstairs to his room for 2 minutes. We are now working on “sorry mom I didn’t listen to you” so I go upstairs and ask him to say sorry – sometimes he outright refuses in which case I leave for another two minutes and repeat the process until he says sorry. This specific instance has only happened once. Usually he listens and stops what I’ve asked him to do before the third time.
There have been times of complete uncontrollable temper tantrums – 3 that I recall. All of them have happened after coming home from the dayhome before supper. He’s exhausted and very hungry and controlling emotions is something that is just not going to happen. I get it, I totally understand but I also get very frustrated in those moments. Two of those times happened last summer and I put him in his room until he calmed down then went in and we snuggled for a good 15-20 minutes and from then on he was happy and I quickly fed him so he’d stay that way :).
Yesterday was the third instance. I knew he had a rough night with my husband the night before while I was at work and I knew he would be tired. When his emotions are extreme it indicates his level of tiredness – usually it’s overly happy, running and yelling and laughing and dancing. He reminds me of those times as a teenager when you’ve pulled an all nighter with your friends which was usually spent laughing at nothing because when you’re overtired everything is funny. When I picked him up yesterday his level of happiness was OVER THE TOP which is always nice when you’re child is extremely happy to see you but I also thought “we definitely need an early bedtime tonight.” We got home and it was nice out so I let him play outside while I tidied before getting supper ready, somehow within 10 minutes he went from happy to frustrated with something (I still have no idea what) that he was not able to communicate with me. The situation very quickly went in a downward spiral as I asked what he was upset about and he got more and more upset without trying to explain. In that moment I decided playtime outside was done and he was MAD – over the top, more than I’ve ever seen him. I took off his outside clothes while he thrashed and screamed bloody murder. I knew this was not going to be controllable on the main level of our house so I marched him upstairs thinking I would put him in time-out but then I remembered the article on time-in’s and thought I’d give it a try. I went to his room, closed his door, sat on the floor and made him sit down facing me. I held his hands in mine and asked him to take some deep breaths, he instantly calmed down in less than 30 seconds – still upset but not thrashing around. Then I grabbed our homemade lavender coconut oil lotion and rubbed some on his chest and feet, he helped by putting some on his feet. By that point the pouty lip had stopped and the tears were done. I asked if he would like to read a story, he promptly got up, grabbed a book and ran to me happily ready to read. We read two books and he got up and I asked if he was ready to go make supper, he ran to the door laughing.
What an amazing tool! I couldn’t believe the response I got from that strategy. It shows him that temper tantrums are not tolerated but that I’m willing to help him out when he can’t seem to help himself. It shows him that crying and screaming doesn’t get you what you want but that there’s always other options to what you want to do. It gives him a choice with his mom by his side helping him out with that choice.
I will still use time-outs for those instances of outright disobedience because I know very well that Ezekiel is capable of following direction and listening to rules but when it comes to uncontrollable emotional outbursts I will definitely use time-in’s.
What is your discipline strategies? Any tips for this momma? I know down the road the frequency of discipline is likely to increase exponentially!