How to Apply Time-out In Your Home (continued)
Follow Through, Follow Through, Follow Through
Because this new approach to dealing with misbehavior may be unsettling, your child is likely to test you, maybe even several times, while you both get used to the process. If you react by losing your patience or otherwise give up on time-out, your child will conclude that pushing the limits can deter you from your goals. While this is no more in the child’s best interests than it is yours, the child will not understand this until later, when it becomes clear how much better it is than continuing the old angry exchanges. Thus, it is up to you to demonstrate that you will follow through even in the face of your child’s provocations.
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You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
~Franklin P. Jones
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To follow through, return your child to time-out as many times as necessary. Early on your child may vigorously test your resolve. Be prepared to demonstrate by your actions that you will calmly and consistently follow through for as long as it takes. And take heart: typically even the most challenging children become more responsive to time-out after the first few times.
If a child complains about going to or staying in the time-out (or quiet) place, insist that the child must go. If necessary, lead your child by the hand to go to the time-out area and hold the child there, using as much restraint as – but no more than – is absolutely required to make it clear that the child must comply.
I do not recommend shutting or locking a child away from parents because this is too frightening for young children and too angering for older ones. With some creative planning, you may be able to restrain a younger child in a bedroom if you use an approach that maintains communication between the child and the rest of the family. Some parents use inexpensive portable gates, even one above the other to deter kids who are good climbers. Others have described securing the partly open door against a wood block or book on the floor, using a towel around the door knob so as to avoid marring the finish. The idea is to assure that the child cannot leave the room, will not be hurt, and can still sense family in the rest of the house. Just be certain to tie things securely so that there is no chance for them to slip and smash little fingers. Since an arrangement that allows the child to hear you means that you will be able to hear the child, resolve not to react to loud complaints.
If your child is large and strong and is unwilling to go to the time-out area without an unsettling tussle, consider simply deciding that time-out should be right where you are. For example, if the child is sprawled on the floor, you might say, “Okay, I guess this is a good place for quiet time.” Send any other children away from the area and then just make sure the child stays there until calm. Turn yourself on “robot” to maintain your own calm and use only enough pressure to assure compliance. Be as firm as you must but no more forceful than required to avoid further upset.
If your child is too wild or aggressive to stay in the time-out area using these guidelines without risk of personal harm or damage to property, then you would be well advised to seek direct help from a child and adolescent psychotherapist. Whenever a child is actually willing to fight with those most needed for support, guidance, and love – whenever a child is distraught enough to risk disrupting the most important human relationships – then that child is clearly in need of – and deserves – a careful assessment and whatever treatment is found to be indicated to relieve the situation. Anything less is a formula for lasting severe unhappiness for all concerned as well as the establishment of grossly dysfunctional family relationships.
A Warning: Do not start use of the time-out techniques unless you are confident about your commitment and capacity to follow through fully. Beginning the technique and failing to follow through would simply teach your child that continued resistance and non-compliance will pay off eventually – that if a little fussing doesn’t pay off, then more will. Thus, hold off on using time-out until you are sure you can follow through; you may find that you will become increasingly confident as you experience success with the positive reinforcement aspect of your home program.