073 – Chapter 7 – Part 17

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

In the Car (continued)

Carry Out Your Plan

With this preparation, you are ready to go, but because driving is such an important activity, taking extra care will assure you success. Important considerations are spelled out here:

1.        Do not start the car until the child is buckled in. Plan to use time-out at the outset if the child whines or resists. Similarly, if the child gets out of the seat while you are moving, find a safe place to stop immediately. Turn off the engine, secure the keys, and do not move the car until the child is properly restrained by the seat belt.

2.        Once you are all buckled in and on your way, remember to comment on how nice it is to be driving with your child.

3 .       Each time the child meets your standards for success, comment on how good that behavior is and mention the credits earned toward some reward. Proceed on your way.

Check for the Need for Time-out

If your child should begin to misbehave according to the standards you have set for the car, tell the child what behavior you expect. (Do not ask; tell!).

If your child complies, a bit later comment on the appropriate behavior and on how nice it is to be together. Continue carrying out your plan as before.

When Time-out is Required

If your child does not comply or immediately resumes the misbehavior, quickly stop the car in a safe place. Turn off the engine and take the key so that, should you get out of the car for any reason, there is no risk of the child locking the doors with you outside. Express the time-out message:

Tyrell, I told you to calm down while we were driving. It is dangerous to drive when there is extra noise and disruption in the car. I see that you can’t calm yourself right now so I’m going to help you. We will stay here with the car stopped while you quiet yourself. Stay in your seat (Or Get back in your seat and stay there) until you feel calm inside. When you do, tell me so that I’ll know you are calm, too. Then we can start up again.

Some parents prefer to step out of the car and open the door on the passenger’s side, both to be away from the child and to be ready to get in next to the child if misbehavior escalates. If you do that, be alert, and if possible, lock the door on the street side to assure the child is safe. Do not interact with the child, either pleasantly or angrily; avoid showing annoyance at such a time, since that is more likely to reinforce the inappropriate behavior than to reinforce the behavior you want from the child.

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Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.

                                                                              ~Roger Lewin

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Note that if there are two children in the car and if both are involved in the ruckus, either directly or indirectly, give them both the time-out message. Remove one child from the car with you and have that child stay close at hand. Avoid interacting with the child outside the car since doing so could evoke cries of favoritism and further the disruption. Do not provide any reinforcement to either child during time out. Try practicing “turning yourself on robot.”

Once the child or children have calmed and are safely buckled in, start up the car and proceed as before. After a short time of calm, comment to the child or children about how good it is to be calm and about how much you enjoy traveling together. Do not comment further on the disruptive behavior, even for comparison.

If your child loses control again, as you define it, immediately stop the car as before and go through all the same steps. To the extent possible, keep yourself calm and focus on the goal of teaching your child an important behavior change.

As with all uses of time-out, remember that follow through is critical. Accordingly, consider carefully whether you will be able to follow through long enough to assure that your child is cooperating in the car. If you aren’t sure you can make it work, I urge you not to start since using the procedure without completing the process will teach the child that if a little fussing doesn’t work, then maybe a lot will.

Children seem to hate sitting still in a stopped car even if they don’t particularly like the destination. As a result, stopping the car and turning off the engine by themselves have a significant impact on how ready most children are to calm themselves. If you avoid giving them further reason to challenge you, you can expect fairly rapid changes. Time-out in the car seems to be effective more quickly and thoroughly than it is in some other settings for those who are consistent with their follow-through.


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