Katherine - posted on 03/10/2011 ( 1 mom has responded )
From Code name Mama
With a child firmly in his preschool years, I keep reading advice about how to successfully use time-outs.1 But I do not feel comfortable using isolation and control as parenting techniques. Instead, I try to turn tough parenting situations into moments of connection.2 Finding a way to connect with an angry, sad, or fearful child is not always easy, but the end result has been more nurturing and educational for both of us. The next time you feel like putting your little one in time out, how about trying one of these techniques instead?
1. Model the Desired Behavior: Instead of demanding the behavior from your child, do it yourself. Model it. Children learn more from seeing a behavior modeled than they do by hearing someone tell them to do it.3
2. Find the Need: All behavior is driven by a need. Don’t punish the behavior, address the need. Is your child hungry? Tired? Lonely? Every unmet need will result in a behavior that may or may not be desirable. Take care of the need, then talk about how they can more appropriately meet their need next time.
3. Observe: Express yourself honestly without labeling your child or evaluating. Let your children know when their actions have an effect on others, but don’t guilt them. “Katie, I see that your toys are still on the kitchen floor. It is hard for me to move around the kitchen to get breakfast ready when there are toys on the floor. I feel frustrated that you have not picked up your toys. Will you please respect my need to have a clean kitchen floor? Please come get them, I will help you.”
4. Let Your Child Work It Out: Before you get into the middle of the ensuing argument between siblings, stand quietly back and give them a minute. They might not work it out the way you would have, but that’s ok – they will learn by doing. You can always role play alternatives later in a safer, less emotionally-charged atmosphere.
5. Take a Time-In: Use this time as an opportunity to connect. Bring your child to a safe place, snuggle up, and give them a minute to get out of “fight or flight” mode. Love them. Nurture them through this moment.
6. Be Gentle: When all you feel like doing is yelling, make a conscious, concerted effort to be gentle. Often when we make an effort to practice gentleness, we find ourselves feeling more patient and calm. Remember those old psychology experiments where they asked people to smile? The people who faked smiles actually felt more cheerful. Try “faking” gentleness and see if you start feeling more gentle!4
7. Reconsider Your Request: It is easy to get frustrated with small children when we are asking them to do something right now or in just this certain way. Does it really need to be done right now? Why can’t your child do it in her own way? Can you turn your request into an offer of cooperation? (Would you like to help me do this?) Is your request worth the power struggle that is starting to frustrate the both of you?
8. Practice SALVE:
(S) separate yourself and your emotions from your child’s behavior to be sure you’re truly about to respond to your child, and not as a result of something from your life/childhood. (If it helps, run through any angry words in your mind, then get rid of them before speaking gently to your child.)
(A) give your little one your full, honest attention;
(L) fully listen, be present for your child;
(V) validate your child’s feelings without adding your own (“I see you want ___,” “you were disappointed because ____”);
(E) empower your child to solve the upset himself. Believe in him; don’t rush to “fix” him.
9. Love the Behavior: The next time you get frustrated with your child’s behavior, change your thinking – turn it into an opportunity to love your child. Instead of “I hate it when he has a temper tantrum!” try “I love that he trusts me so much to be emotionally vulnerable with me.”
10. Offer Alternatives: Much like reconsidering your requests, offering alternatives can defuse a potential power struggle. Give your child real choices; even better, let him offer some of his own alternatives. Work together to find a solution, don’t work against each other – that will rarely end well.
Above all, make sure every communication comes from the intention to connect.5
What advice can you offer about avoiding time-out?
Photo Credit: LilGoldWmn
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