How to Apply Time-out In Your Home (continued)
Sample Family Challenges in Implementing Time-out (continued)
Our child seemed to have lots of tantrums before we started time-out and is doing a lot better. Now, when we do send him to time-out, he stays there for a long time, and when we check on him, he’s reading or playing by himself. What should we do about this?
My first instinct is to suggest you congratulate yourself on a job well done. I’ll try to do better than that, but it is a legitimate response since it sounds as if you have helped your child regain control, a great achievement, especially for a child prone to frequent tantrums. About all that might be improved would be for the child to come to you to tell you that he is calm, and maybe he somehow missed that part of the instruction. If you think that could be true, gently tell him again, perhaps stressing that you want him to come to you at the end of time-out so that you, too, know how well he is doing.
There is a chance that your son is aware of your expectation but doesn’t choose to come to you. That could happen if he is not truly and completely at ease inside himself. To the extent that this is true, it would be appropriate to respect the child’s need for the longer time and simply let him make use of it. A child with a history of tantrums may have been caught up in power struggles and may harbor residual anger that he is gradually working out during these times, a constructive development if true. Since you can’t know about for sure what is going on inside him, I would suggest that you allow the child to work out whatever he needs to by giving him the time he needs.
On the other hand, if your child tends to stay in time-out impossibly long and inconveniences other family members, you likely will need to set some kind of limit on how long you let the process go on. Without knowing your child, it is impossible to suggest an exact time-frame, but perhaps you could decide to allow the child to stay alone where he is for a half-hour after he appears to be calm, as best you can judge that. That would allow considerable time for completing his internal calming but still would give you a time when you could expect him to participate in other family activities. If you elect to use such a guideline, try the idea once to see how it works. If you see signs that the child is edgy or loses his cool unduly rapidly, then maybe you should allow a longer time alone in time-out. Whatever way you go, you deserve to feel good that you and your child have already made so much progress.