Time Out for Oliver

I feel like there’s something LDS related to Time Out (Time Out for Women?  Time Out for Love?), which I have no idea what it is, but the title stuck, and that’s why I titled this post what I did.  (Oh, and it’s about time outs, too.)

So, time out.  I mentioned here that the way that I do time out is different than it used to be.  Most books and magazines that I’ve read recommend giving time out for a minute per year of age.  I’ve also heard theories of letting your kid be in time out until they’re ready to get out and behave.  I don’t really do either of those.

I’m going to illustrate the way that I do time out with a couple of typical examples in our home.

1.  Oliver gets angry that Hazel is playing with one of his toys.  He snatches it from her, and then hits her.  Hitting is one of those ‘don’t pass go’ cards straight to time out.  He usually gets really upset about having to go to time out, and I often have to carry him over there.  He sits in the designated time out spot by the door, facing the wall, and I usually st behind him and hold him while he’s crying and carrying on.  I try not to talk to him until he’s managed to calm down a bit, and if I do talk to him, it’s usually to say  (or whisper) that we’ll talk when he’s calmed down.  (Aside: Sometimes he’ll shriek that he IS CALMED DOWN, and I have a hard time not laughing.)  When he stops freaking out about being in time out, we talk about why he’s there.  I ask him why he got sent to time out, and he’ll tell me that he hit Hazel.  Sometimes he tries to interject with, “I hit Hazel, but…” and I interrupt him and tell him that there aren’t any buts because we don’t hit.  And we talk about why we don’t hit–that it hurts people, that we don’t want to hurt people, that he loves Hazel, even when he’s angry with her, and that she is smaller than him, so hitting her isn’t fair, and that there are better ways of dealing with a problem than hitting.  If I still have his attention, I try to talk to him about what he could do instead.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

2.  I ask Oliver to please get his shoes so we can go outside, and he yells at me, “No!  YOU do it!”.  Now, my problem here isn’t that he didn’t obey me, but the way that he told me.  If he had asked me politely, and I wasn’t doing something else, I wouldn’t really have a problem with doing it.  But I won’t let me three year old boss me around.  Then we’re stuck in a battle of wills where he’s said he won’t do it, and I won’t back down because that wold be a parenting nightmare.  So, we often wind up with a statement of, “Oliver, if you don’t get your shoes by the time I count to five, you’re going to go to time out.”  I don’t love putting him in time out for this, but I’m not sure what else to do when it’s a stand off.  So, I wind up having to carry him to time out if he doesn’t do it.  Again, I sit with him, and when he’s ready, we talk about why he’s in time out, and what he could have done instead–he could have politely asked.  Or he could have said, “Mommy, I’m in the middle of putting my cars in my bookbag; can I do it when I’ve finished?”  Here, it’s a matter of learning how to speak to each other respectfully, so we talk about why we don’t talk to each other that way.

It sounds kind of touchy feely, I guess, but maybe that’s okay.  Mostly, we try to adapt our punishment to make sure that we and the kids know why they’re being punished, and also try to modify it so that they aren’t being abandoned and forced out of the family because they acted out.  I don’t want my kids to feel like we don’t love them as much or want to be around them when they’re behaving badly.  I don’t want them to think that my love is conditional on perfect behavior, because it’s not.  So, I love them harder when they’re rotten, and try really hard to stay calm.

And I apologize when I yell at them or snap at them.  Because I want to treat them with respect too.  And I want them to know that they deserve to be treated with respect.

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Today’s Oliverism/Hazeliloquy

Oliver and Hazel were arguing over a toy, and Oliver got mad, and said, “Hazel!  Go to Time Out!”

Hazel, who has never been sentenced to time out, walked dutifully over to the time out corner and sat down.

… I had to have a conversation with Oliver about how he doesn’t get to be the boss of Hazel, and certainly doesn’t get to send her to time out.  I am pretty sure Hazel was just excited to finally get some punishment around here.

The Point of Parenting

Ages ago I read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.  While I don’t adhere to or believe in everything that he wrote, and it is definitely on the ‘a little too extreme’ side, I think that it was worth reading.  And that it has fundamentally changed the way that I look at parenting.  The basic premise that I came away with is that we should raise our kids to know and feel that they are unconditionally loved by us.  Also, that we should parent thoughtfully, and not just using knee-jerk reactions.

So, what is parenting thoughtfully?  For me, I think that it involves actually thinking through what I do with the kids, and what the undertones of what I tell them, restrict them from, and permit them to do says about my values, the values I want for them, and how I feel about them.  When I tell my kid ‘no’, but don’t have a good reason, and expect him to listen, am I instilling in him that he has to listen unquestioningly to authority?  Do I really want that to be how he grows up?

Because of this, I really have changed my parenting.  I’m not perfect, by any means.  I still get frustrated and yell at my kids.  I still put them in time-out–although I do it more mindfully, and using a totally different process than before.   I still deal with typical kid behaviors.  But Kullervo and I spend a lot of time talking about how we want to act and respond in certain situations.  When Oliver backtalks, how do we want to respond?  What about his semi-refusal to use the potty?  How do we feel about him sleeping on the floor instead of his bed (he prefers it most days)?

I think that talking about stuff, even the inane, helps us react better when it comes up again.  And discussing together how we reacted in the moment helps us figure out what we could have done better or wish we had said instead, or what magically worked.  And we’re figuring out that things that worked or that we took for granted with Oliver are totally different with Hazel.  And so we also discuss the ways that we wind up parenting our kids differently from each other.

I want my kids to grow up secure that, no matter what, their parents love them.  My love really isn’t conditional on them being or acting or doing something specific.  When they do things that I don’t like, I want to be supportive.  I want them to know that I don’t like what they do, but I love them, because they’re my kid, and they don’t have to do anything to earn that.  It just is.  Even when I’m pissed off.  Even when they hate me. I think that maybe parenting pays it forward, because I don’t feel like love of a parent is necessarily unconditional–but love of a child should be.

I also want them to grow up with values, values that Kullervo and I think are important.  We’ve been tossing around ideas about the values we want to instill in our kids, and I might start a series of blog posts to get any other feedback in ways to help teach our kids these values, or whether anyone else thinks they’re important, or stupid, or whatever.  The process we’ve been going through is, I think, necessary for us as we grow into different avenues, religiously, but still share a life and a family and a relationship.

So, expect more to come in the future.