071 – Chapter 7 – Part 15

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

At a Sit-down Restaurant (continued)

Carry Out Your Plan

Now you are ready to venture into the restaurant to begin teaching your child how to deal with a situation requiring restraint and cooperation:

1.        Soon after arriving, and from time to time thereafter, comment on how nice it is to be eating out together.

2.        Make waiting easier by providing appropriate activities and by occasionally interacting with the child about them, assuring the child suitable attention during appropriate behavior.

3.        Track your child’s success in meeting your identified target behaviors. Comment on each success and credits earned, then mark it on your card. Put a token directly into the hand of a younger child. Continue in this fashion throughout dinner.

Check for the Need for Time-out

If your child behaves unacceptably, quietly but firmly tell the child to change to behavior you consider acceptable. (Remember, don’t ask; tell.)

If the child complies, after a few seconds for a young child or a couple minutes for an older one, praise the current appropriate behavior. Avoid comparisons with the just-stopped inappropriate behavior, which would actually reinforce stopping the inappropriate behavior, since the only way the child can repeat that reinforcement would be to start the inappropriate behavior again. Continue through the meal as before.

When Time-out is Required

If your child does not meet your standards use the procedure as with shopping, except for a few specific considerations:

Take the child calmly from the restaurant to your car (being sure to keep control of the keys yourself) or other suitable quiet and isolated area and state the time-out message

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

Once the child has calmed, likely rather quickly since most children really like to be inside, go back to your table and resume the meal. If the child stays calm, after a few seconds for a young one or a minute or two for an older one, comment on how nice it is to be in the restaurant together. Continue to follow your plan of rewarding all successes.

It is crucial that you follow through as many times as required and that you remain as calm as possible while doing so. Each time behavior becomes unacceptable, return the child to time-out. If you begin losing your patience, remember that it is a loving thing to teach your child to behave appropriately in a setting that will be visited many times over the years. Note also that children must learn to tolerate many similar situations, however tedious they may be, and that this is preparation for many of them. Also be prepared to ignore the disapproving reactions of others who don’t know your child or your challenges but who may feel they would handle it all better.

Should you find yourself really annoyed with your child’s behavior, you may not feel like praising small successes, a perfectly natural reaction. Unfortunately, but in reality, it is precisely at times like these when the most discipline is required of you. This approach requires consistently demonstrating to your child that cooperation merits social and material reinforcement – for as long as it takes for the behavior to become internalized. Since you also operate on the Principle of Positive Reinforcement, make a point of rewarding yourself for meeting these challenges despite your frustration.


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