069 – Chapter 7 – Part 13

How to Apply Time-out Outside Your Home (continued)

While Shopping (continued)

Check for the Need for Time-out

Some parents using these steps for the first time during shopping are surprised that their children cooperate throughout the trip and that they have no reason to use time-out, a tribute to the power of positive attention to such behavior. For less cooperative times, here are the steps to follow:

At whatever point your child loses control, as you define it, tell the child what you expect. This should not be a request but rather a clear demand from you to the child. For example:

Marcel, keep your hands on the shopping cart rail.

If the child complies, continue shopping as before. After a few seconds, for a young child, to a minute or so, for an older one, praise the child’s calm demeanor. For example:

Wow, Marcel, it’s fun to shop with you when you are so cooperative.

Refrain from comments such as “Marcel, it’s great that you stopped grabbing things off the shelf,” since you would risk teaching your child that stopping inappropriate behavior is how to get praise. After all, one can stop a behavior only if it has been started, not a notion you want to foster.

When Time-out is Required

If your child does not comply when told to do so, use the time-out procedure. Without further comment, as calmly as possible, push your shopping cart to the side and take the child out of the store. Typically the most practical choice will be to take the child to your car, but an isolated area nearby might work as well.

Put the child in the car or nearby in a safe place. If you use the car, be sure to keep the keys in your possession to assure that the child cannot be locked in with you locked out. Express the time-out message clearly. For example:

Jose, I told you to calm down in the store. I see that you can’t right now. It’s not good to be out of control like that, and I’m going to help you. Sit there quietly and stay there until you feel calm inside. When you feel calm, tell me so that I’ll know you are calm, too.

Interact as little as possible until your child reports feeling calm. Restrain a child who tries to leave with as much force as required for compliance while avoiding a control struggle. Turn your face away and your mind on “ robot” so that you can do what you must without becoming emotionally caught up in conflict. (See Chapter 5 to review more information on this.)

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The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.

                                                                             ~Lane Olinghouse

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Once the child declares calm and you are convinced, return to the store and continue your shopping. With luck, you may find your cart so that you can pick up where you left off. Continue to reinforce each success for your child while refraining from mentioning earlier misbehavior since any lecture at that point will only reinforce what you don’t want the child to do.

If the inappropriate behavior recurs, again tell your child what you expect and if there is no compliance, use the time-out procedure the same as before. Do this as many times as necessary to complete your planned shopping.

If you have had to interrupt your shopping several times to take your child to time-out, you likely will be frustrated and you may find it difficult to reinforce the child for whatever successes you observe. Please keep in mind that suitable praise for whatever cooperation occurred will provide the basis for future improvements and follow through as fully as possible.

If, on the other hand, you have completed your shopping with your child mostly cooperating, you are in a great position. Comment on the way home about how nice it was to shop together. Also comment on the credits the child earned in the store. You can mention how pleased that others, such as the absent parent and the grandparents, will be to learn what a good time you had. And you can reinforce all of this during your daily review. Further, before the next trip you can review how well things went during the last trip to the store. These are the building blocks of responsible behavior.

Some Potential Complications

It is not uncommon for children being taken to time-out in public to protest loudly, bringing unwelcome attention to parent and child and challenging even the most dedicated parents’ resolve. If you use time-out in public, you are likely to encounter some well-meaning but uninformed passers-by who will frown and even comment critically about what you are doing. Should you face such potentially embarrassing circumstances, keep your own goals clear and remember that you are providing a loving and necessary life lesson about behavior in public. You need apologize to no one for such an effort.

While most parents report good success with this approach, occasionally one will describe a child who challenges far beyond the parent’s patience. If during time-out this happens to you and if after ten or fifteen minutes you find yourself getting upset with no signs that the child will regain control, take the child home without further comment. Avoid showing anger since this will reinforce the child’s sense of control. When you get home, calmly restate the time-out message and send the child to your typical time-out location. Note that this is not suggested as a good outcome but rather is intended to minimize the negative impact on the child’s future behavior.


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