Our Timeout Script

Source: cloudmom.com

If we understand that the purpose of discipline is to teach, not to punish, it’s important to ensure our kids learn from the experience. No consequence is effective unless the child learns from it.

With this in mind, I always have a chat with my kids after every act of discipline. Timeouts or some form of isolation usually work well for my kids. After every timeout, I make sure to go over a few things to make sure they learned what went wrong and why it was wrong. Here’s our typical timeout script:

Me: “What did you do wrong?”

Child: Either explains what he did wrong or says he doesn’t know. If he says he doesn’t know, I’ll tell him I’ll come back later after he “remembers” what he did wrong. Usually, it’s an issue of them not wanting to own up to what they did. If I can see in their eyes that they truly don’t know what they did wrong, I will prompt them a bit.

Me: “I need an apology.” The child will then apologize if he didn’t already.

Child: “I’m sorry for XYZ.” I ALWAYS require that they state what they did wrong in their apology. I don’t accept a simple, “I’m sorry.”

Child: “Will you forgive me?” This last step is crucial. I don’t accept their apology until they ask for my forgiveness. Lucas is still learning this, as he often says, “I forgive you.” But we’re working on it.

Me: “I forgive you.” Hugs and kisses, and we’re done.

If the child hurt or offended someone else, I then make him apologize to and ask forgiveness from that person.

Here’s what the Ezzos say about forgiveness:

“Humility is the basis for healthy families. Seeking forgiveness for an offense and humbly admitting error in an effort to be restored with the offended party is a prerequisite for a loving and enduring relationship. This is serious heart business. Children and adults who are in the habit of asking for forgiveness take ownership of their wrong actions. They show they believe the relationship is worth the possible embarrassment often associated with admitting wrong,” (On Becoming Childwise).

You can start teaching the importance of asking for forgiveness when they’re young and then make it a habit after every wrongdoing.

Milestones and Behavior

A recent shot of Lucas. If only he were always so peaceful.

There’s a new phenomenon going on in my home right now. I haven’t read about this in any parenting book, but I have heard other moms mention it. There’s something about kids hitting a certain age or particular milestone that sends their behavior completely off-kilter.

Lucas has been 5.5 for 13 days now, and I’ll tell you, it’s been 13 days of defiance, disobedience, attitude, and pretty much any other behavior problem you can think of. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I did the math and realized that he had hit his half birthday. We were doing all kinds of timeouts, logical consequences, pulling our hair out (William included), and more.

I explained this phenomenon to my husband, and he wondered why a half birthday would do it. But I’ve seen it mentioned on the Babywise message board. And it’s not that Lucas is aware of this milestone. It’s just a little change in his development that perhaps has him a little confused.

I think many parents see this phenomenon much earlier in their kids’ lives. Typically, age two and three present big challenges. But for us, with Lucas at least, two and three were a breeze. I’ve always considered it 10% luck, 20% personality, and 70% training. I started training him in the Babywise principles from day one. My blanket time success story was one of our shining moments.

As odd as this sounds, I think part of the reason Lucas was so easy was that William was so difficult. I don’t think anybody who knows William would call him easy-going or laid back. A friend recently described him as intense, and that’s him in a nutshell. He’s intense in everything he does, and he’s been like this from the minute he was born. I remember being in the hospital wondering if it was okay that I went to sleep, considering my newborn was lying in his bassinet bright eyed and bushy tailed! Sleepy newborn? What’s that? Even his entrance into this world was intense since my water broke before I had a single contraction. And then it was 11 hours of painful, intense labor. We had colic, developmental delays, you name it!

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I “told him” that he had to pay me back for all the terror that William caused. The obedient thing that he is, he listened. :) Kidding aside, I think Lucas subconsciously recognized that William was a lot to handle. And he let William do his thing. He let him direct their play. They rarely fought ever because Lucas was so appeasing. You may have noticed that I rarely discuss sibling rivalry. Plus, whenever we were out, Lucas was his brother’s watchdog. He always made sure he was coming, even if I was walking at my own pace and William was lagging behind.

When I step back and examine their behaviors, William is much easier to manage now. I’ve noticed a change in him just in the past few months. I don’t know if it’s his occupational therapy, homeschooling, maturity, or what, but something is working for him. Perhaps Lucas noticed that things were a little too quiet, so he decided to fill the void. Not only has he been testing the limits lately, but he’s stopped letting William get his way. Sadly, they fight a lot more now.

I’ve also noticed a few other changes in Lucas’ development. For one, he’s been stuttering lately. I don’t think of it as a problem, but as a developmental speed bump. My niece has struggled with stuttering over the years, and my sister noticed that it’s just one of those things that goes along with their growth. It comes and goes. I can also tell that Lucas’ brain is moving too fast for his mouth. He knows what he wants to say. It just takes a little while for it to come out.

Lucas has also shown big progress academically. Because we homeschool, I see this with my own two eyes. His reading is coming along so well, and he’s at the point now where he reads the words he sees around him. When I read to him at bed time, he’ll point out a few words he recognizes. And he was watching TV the other day, and simply said to himself “fox.” He read the network logo.

What am I to do about all of this? Recognizing the problem and its cause helps immensely. But it still doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If I weren’t a Babywise mom, I might call it a phase and wait it out. But since I know better, I’m going to train this disobedience right out of him! It means my husband and I need to buckle down and tackle it head on. Consistency is the name of the game these days. We can no longer be lax with our schedule, room time, couch time, etc. We will also be looking for logical consequences that “hurt” a little more than a timeout would, because after your sixth timeout of the day, they start to lose their effectiveness! And thank goodness he still naps!

Wish us luck!


Logical Consequences Grab Bag: Apologies

Source: mylot.com

In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Over the next few days, in posts with a similar title, I’ll offer a few ideas of logical consequences for common misbehaviors.

What do we do when our kids offer insincere apologies? You know the type. You ask a child to apologize to you for some misbehavior, and rather than look you in the eye and offer a heartfelt apology, he averts his eyes and mumbles the word “sorry.” Sometimes it’s so imperceptible that you’re not sure he even said it. What do you do when this happens? We all know that every form of discipline is done in an effort to teach. Discipline is all about heart training. If we don’t teach them a lesson or reach their hearts, we haven’t done our job.

So what’s the consequence that will reach their hearts? The next time your child apologizes to you, require that he ask for forgiveness. Require him to look in your eye (or the eye of the offended party) and say “sorry” as if he means it. Then have him ask for forgiveness.

It’s too easy for a child to utter a mindless, insincere apology, especially when he doesn’t want to take ownership of whatever it was he did wrong. Nor does he want to put his guilt into the hands of someone else. But these are exactly the reasons why we need to require it. Make no mistake: asking another person to forgive you is a very powerful thing. It tips the scales and requires the offender to give up all power over the situation and put it in the hands of the other person.

My kids took a little while to get used to saying it – and to not confuse the asking of forgiveness with the act of giving it. But it has been a complete game-changer in our house. Whenever a child goes into timeout, or otherwise hurts someone, we require not only an apology but a request for forgiveness. William, in particular, has a tough time with it because he knows how powerful it is to ask someone else to assuage your guilt.

In my house, my kids are required to also say what they are sorry for. So it all goes something like this: “I’m sorry for breaking apart your Lego guy, Lucas. Will you forgive me?” I usually have to coach them through it, which is fine. The other benefit of this trick is that it makes the offended party much more likely to forgive. Lucas is always quick to say “I forgive you” whenever his brother asks for it.

Recently, Lucas hurt William pretty bad, and while Lucas was trying to sort out what he had done, I sent him into the bathroom for a timeout. When he was done and had apologized to ME (he hurt my son), he was required to apologize to William and ask for his forgiveness. William was very quick to forgive Lucas (even though he had a red mark on his cheek), and they then hugged each other. It was a very sweet, loving moment between my boys. If I had allowed an insincere apology, there’s no way they would have reached this moment of forgiveness.

A New Timeout Method

Source: realage.com

If you’ve read my posts on timeouts here and here, you know that we typically do timeouts on the bed. Our ultimate goal in doing so is to isolate the offending child with the idea that isolation takes away the privilege of social interaction and allows time for contemplation. Essentially, when the child sits by himself, he’s more likely to think about what he did wrong and find a repentant heart.

As important as these ideas are, it’s also important to realize when our usual tactics aren’t working. It occurred to me recently that my boys aren’t thinking about what they did wrong when they sat on their beds. They were merely waiting me out.

The Ezzos would agree with me that any discipline measure needs to inflict a bit of pain to be effective. And I don’t mean physical pain. I simply mean affecting kids in a way that is important to them. With William, timeouts on the bed do inflict pain in that he’s a very social being. It’s difficult for him to be alone. With Lucas, it got to the point where he would twiddle his thumbs just waiting for his timeout to be over. He wasn’t disobeying. He just didn’t seem to care.

So I came up with a new method. I now require them to stand in a corner with their foreheads on the wall or door. It’s surprisingly effective. They are somewhat isolated in that they can’t look at us or engage with us in any way. We have this little alcove in our home that leads to the garage door. It’s narrow, somewhat dark (if we don’t turn the light on), and it’s close enough to the family room and kitchen that we can see if they take their foreheads off the wall.

When I first did this with Lucas, it was difficult for him. He was throwing a fit, and the first thing he wanted to do was fall to the floor. But I didn’t allow it. I required him to stand up with his forehead on the door without sitting or talking.

It was an amazing exercise in self-control. And I’m happy to say that he passed with flying colors. He stayed put until I came over to him and discussed what he did wrong. We did our usual chat, talking about the offense and giving apologies. My boys are also well-versed in asking for forgiveness. With all of that out of the way, we finished it off with hugs and kisses.

We may still do timeouts on the bed occasionally, but for now, foreheads on the wall add that bit of novelty that make them more painful and more effective.

Do you do timeouts at home? What works best for your child?

Change “go” to “come”

Source: diabetes.org.uk

How often does the word “go” precede your instructions for your child? These instructions sound like this:

  • Go wash your hands for dinner
  • Go upstairs and clean your room
  • Go brush your teeth
  • Go put your shoes on

How well does your child obey when you tell your child to “go” do something? Even if you get eye contact and “yes, mommy,” the child might not be so willing to comply, especially if he has better ideas in mind.

Here’s a simple idea. The next time you hear yourself say “go” do X, try saying “come.” It works like this: instead of telling your child to go put his shoes on, try saying, “Come with me to the shoe basket so you can put your shoes on.” Hold out your hand to give him an indication that he is to hold it. It almost immediately changes the tone from one of confrontation to one of cooperation.

Be sure to understand that this does not mean you do the activity for him. You are not putting his shoes on for him. You are simply bringing him over to his shoes so he can put them on.

Other variations of “come” instructions might include:

  • Come with me to the table so you can sit down for dinner
  • Come with me to the bathroom so you can wash your hands
  • Come with me to your room so we can see what toys and books need to be picked up
  • Come to the bathroom so we can brush your teeth

The other benefit of this type of instruction is that it allows you to take your child by the hand and lead him to where you want him to be. It allows you to guide your child without giving an instruction, worrying about first-time obedience, or following through with a consequence. Because of this, it’s especially useful when you’re in a time crunch (no time for timeouts) and for tasks that your child typically resists.

React swiftly but have a plan

Source: totallifecounseling.com

When our children misbehave, reacting swiftly and quietly can have a much greater impact than giving a warning or waiting to see if they’ll stop. But to react swiftly, we must have a plan.

For example, when you see your toddler throwing toys, I’m sure there’s no doubt in your mind that this is not a behavior you allow. I’m sure the child knows it as well. So what do you do? Do you tell him to stop? Do you plead with him? Do you try to reason with him?

Actions speak louder than words. So when you see such a behavior, simply stop what you’re doing and react swiftly but calmly. You might take your child by the hand and guide him to his room for a timeout. Or you might simply take the toy away. Guiding him by his hand without saying a word or even having an angry expression on your face will surprise the child. He won’t know for sure what’s going on until you sit him on his bed and walk away. It eliminates any chance for a tantrum or that spaghetti legs thing they know works so well.

By the same token, if you take the toy away, simply take it and walk away. If he knows he threw it and he knows it’s wrong, you taking it away will send the message. When he asks for it back, then you can tell him why you took it away.

You’ll notice that both examples, however, require having a plan. Acting calmly and swiftly can only happen if you have a plan. If you see your child throwing toys but aren’t quite sure what to do, you will hesitate and your actions won’t be as powerful. You might also think that reasoning with him will work.

Not having a plan will also increase the likelihood that you’ll act out of anger and frustration. And when they know they can get a rise out of us, some kids see that as score 1 for the child–not to mention the fact that correction done in anger is simply less effective.

“It’s natural for parents to react spontaneously to negative behavior. You see defiance and boom, you jump on it. But before you jump, you stop and think. You must act for the child’s good. Recklessly reacting in the heat of the moment isn’t the best plan.” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 135)

So take the time to think through your child’s most chronic misbehaviors and come up with a consequence for each. Then decide on your “go to” consequence for every other behavior problem that presents itself. We use timeouts as our “go to” consequence. Read more here on how to create a discipline plan.

Catch trouble before it happens

Source: inflightinsider.com

There are so many parenting tips out there, by the Ezzos and other parenting experts, but there are few as important as preventing behavior problems before they happen. Prevention can save so much heartache, for you and your child. In fact, if you do your best with prevention, you won’t need to discipline much. There are several factors that allow us to prevent behavior problems:

I could go on. There is one other important technique that enables us to prevent behavior problems: the reflective sit time.

“A reflective sit time can serve three purposes. First, it is a preventative strategy used to control physical or emotional energy. This is when a child needs to stop, sit down, and get control. Reflective sit times can be used as a maintenance strategy to help a child realign his thinking, and gain self-control over current or potential wrong behavior and move toward wise behavior. Third, a reflective sit time can be used as a corrective strategy assisting a parent in bringing a child to a deeper understanding of his actions and to help facilitate true repentance,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 217).

A reflective sit time simply means you remove the child from the “scene of the crime” and have him sit. This can be used for any offense and on any surface (couch, floor, bed, etc.). The child doesn’t need to be isolated like he does with a timeout, but he shouldn’t be allowed to play while sitting.

Keeping the child near you throughout the day is key to using this strategy effectively. Since prevention is the key, keeping the child near you will help you recognize problems before they happen.

In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link tells the story of a child who threw all kinds of tantrums. She realized that before the child threw a tantrum, she would whine. The mom hadn’t recognized this, but Carla in her wisdom recognized the whine as the precursor to the tantrum. So she taught the mom to put the child in a reflective sit time at the point of the whine. Her idea was to never let it get to the tantrum stage by having the child gain control over her emotions while sitting. Brilliant!

Think through any chronic behavior problems you have with your child. Whether it’s fighting with siblings, being destructive with toys, hitting or kicking you, challenging your authority with an attitude, or your run-of-the-mill tantrum, see if there’s a consistent tell-tale sign that shows you that the behavior problem is about to hit. Then put him in a reflective sit time. If you’re not entirely sure of the precursor to your chronic problem, allow him to read a book or two while he’s sitting. Then if you find that the sit time isn’t working, take the book away.

The reflective sit time is such a simple tool, but it’s so powerful!

Have them ask for forgiveness

Source: boxoftricks.net

Have you taught your kids the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness? After every timeout (or other correction), I require my kids to apologize to me and to seek forgiveness from the person they hurt (physically or otherwise).

When all we require of our children is a simple “I’m sorry” or worse “sorry,” we end up with a child who shows little repentance for their actions. The attitude with which they utter “sorry” tells a lot, too. Some kids say it under their breath, use a whining voice, or say it indignantly. I remember watching Supernanny and seeing kids (who were chased around for hours on end for a timeout) say “sorry” with zero conviction or repentance in their hearts. They apologized because it meant the end of the timeout. And these parents (and Supernanny) accepted their “sorry” no matter what attitude was behind it.

Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure you get a heart-felt apology from your child. There are a couple ways to do this. First, require that they use an appropriate tone of voice and that they explicitly say what they are sorry for. With my kids, I never let them say just “I’m sorry.” At minimum, they are required to say, “I’m sorry for hurting my brother,” or whatever it is that they’re being corrected for. And if I don’t like their attitude, I’ll have them stay in timeout longer or I’ll have them repeat the apology with sincerity.

The second way to ensure a heart-felt apology is to have them ask for forgiveness. When my kids are being corrected for hurting each other, I require that they ask the other for forgiveness. It makes them very uncomfortable but in a good way. It makes them accountable to the person they hurt, and it gives all of the power to the person who was hurt. The child who is being corrected has to give up control over the situation.

The Ezzos explain it well:

“Why is this forgiveness thing so powerful? Simply, it gets to the heart of the matter. Our hearts. When you say ‘I’m sorry,’ you’re in control of that moment. You control the depth and sincerity of your sorrow. But when you seek forgiveness, the one you’re humbling yourself before is in control. You’re asking something of that person that you cannot get without his or her consent–forgiveness. It is this humbling effect that so wonderfully curbs a child’s (and a parent’s) appetite for going back and doing the same wrong thing again,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 139).

When my husband and I took the Growing Kids God’s Way class, we were encouraged to have the boys ask for forgiveness from us when they hurt each other. When William hurt his little brother (Lucas was a baby at the time), it wasn’t just their relationship with each other that was called into question. William was hurting my baby, so he was required to ask for forgiveness from me.

How do you handle apologies in your home? Try having them ask for forgiveness (even with you, or especially with you) and let me know if it makes a difference in achieving a humble spirit.

Know when to walk away

Source: sodahead.com

It’s so important for parents to take responsibility for the teaching and training we do for our children. When something goes awry, we need to look to ourselves first and realize that our children look to us to learn how to exist in this world. Whether we teach through direct instruction or lead by example, teaching our children is so important.

On the flip side of this is recognizing the importance of knowing when to walk away. At some point in our children’s lives–whether it’s when they start kindergarten or leave for college–they need to take ownership of their own actions. We know we have done our job when our children can walk away from us confidently, knowing how to behave (and believe) in certain situations.

Even when our children are little, we need to train ourselves to recognize when to teach and when to walk away. This idea comes to light in On Becoming Childwise when they discuss allowing our children to surrender with dignity. Essentially, we need to give our children an instruction and walk away with the confidence or expectation that they will follow through. Standing over the child while expecting him to disobey will not produce an obedient heart. If you expect them to disobey, they will. By the same token, if you expect them to obey, they will.

This plays out very clearly in daily life. When you train your child to stay in his room for roomtime, you take the time to explain what is expected of him–and why you expect those behaviors–and then you walk away. You walk away expecting that he will stay in his room. The same plays out when expecting a child to complete a chore. Walk away. But then also have a plan B for when the child doesn’t comply. The Ezzos tells us our children won’t be obedient 100% of the time, so we need to have a plan for how to deal with the child when they choose to disobey.

Just yesterday, I sent William, my 7-year-old, into the laundry room to put a load into the dryer. I told him exactly what I needed him to do, and I didn’t even follow him into the laundry room. I expected that he was old enough to understand my instructions and follow through with the care and determination that I would expect. Well, wouldn’t you know it, he ended up putting half of the load in the dryer, and then proceeded to throw the clothes around the room with his brother. They were playing some silly game with each other with the clothes. Plan A worked fine…until it didn’t. As soon as I heard the silliness, they were both sent to sit on their beds.

But at no point in the process did I stand over my child to ensure he completed the task. I allowed him to surrender with dignity, and then when he chose not to obey, I exerted my authority and sent him to his room. And even when sending both boys (now 4 and 7) to their rooms, at no point did I even have to follow them upstairs or make sure they sat on their beds. They have a healthy respect for my authority now that they will go up and sit very willingly (even though they hate it). From the very start of the whole episode, I gave a verbal instruction and never felt the need to watch over them. In fact, I think I stayed sitting in my chair the whole time.

The lesson to be learned from all of this is that we parents need to draw a line in the sand. There are times–especially when they’re toddler or preschool aged–when we need to stand over them and make sure they follow our instructions. And then there are times when we simply expect them to obey and have a plan for when they don’t. There’s nothing more suffocating to a child than a parent who stands over them with a critical eye. If the child is characterized by being 90% obedient, you should walk away 90% of the time. If he’s obedient 60% of the time, walk away 60% of the time.

And yes, our children will disobey. But we need to give them the freedom to disobey by their own free will so they will be able to learn from the experience. We all learn from our mistakes, don’t we? Let’s give our children the same courtesy.


Correction must promote learning

Source: parentdish.co.uk

Have you ever sent your child to a timeout only for him to come right out and repeat the behavior? Have you ever felt like every time you take a toy away, he continues to use it inappropriately? For any correction to work, you must ensure your child is learning from the experience.

This is Childwise Principle #10: “If learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen.”

Understand the difference between discipline and punishment. The true intent behind discipline is to teach. We don’t want to punish our children but discipline them.

So any correction must include a lesson. Whether it’s practical or moral, the lesson must take place.

“Correction requires explanation. Without the why of wrong there is no correction, just a random redirection of behavior. Whether a child’s actions be innocent mistakes or malicious disobedience, explanatory teaching will always be necessary,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133-134.)

Always teach appropriate behaviors
While you take the time to teach after you correct your child, make sure you include a lesson on the type of behavior you do expect. Don’t simply focus on the negative. Say your child is hoarding toys during a play date with a friend. You may choose to send him to sit on his bed, particularly if the hoarding is accompanied by a nasty attitude.

After the timeout (and after he has apologized to you), use the quiet moment and his attitude of submission to teach appropriate behaviors. Take the time to explain that he must not only not hoard toys, but that he must share with his friends. Selfishly hoarding toys is the negative behavior; sharing is the positive.

Also teach the moral reason behind the behavior you expect. Tell him why you expect him to share and how it makes his friends feel when he doesn’t share.

In sum, after every correction, take the time to teach the child to avoid the negative behavior, explain the positive behavior, and include the moral reasoning behind it all.

“The parent’s job is to move the child from what he did this time to what he should do next time. Whatever the wrong, use it to impart knowledge. If you complete your talk and learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 134).