Time-Out: My Frienemy

Friend + Enemy = Frienemy.  When I looked around the internet for the “official” definition of this new word, I found so many different interpretations, but there is no doubt that it is a word, better yet a world, between love and hate.  This is exactly how I feel about time-outs.

For months Greenleigh was considered the bully of her infant/toddler class at daycare.  She even gathered some friends and formed a gang.  They were feared by all and the teachers often relayed tales of how “funny” it was.  Thing is, Erajh and I were mortified.  We didn’t like to hear that she was stealing other kids toys or knocking them over.  I actually had to tell the teachers to stop telling Erajh about Greenleigh’s “funny” behavior, because I swear he was on the brink of panic attacks.  But all of that changed when Greenleigh started in the 1 year old room.  The teachers in that room didn’t find her behavior as cute and quickly instituted time-outs.  One or two minutes to calm down, reflect, and stop whatever she was doing.  Okay, maybe not reflect, but apparently she did calm down and stop the bad behavior.

Problem is, that we didn’t know that they had started time-outs at daycare until she was closer to 18 months old.  We brought it up with our pediatrician at Greenleigh’s 18 month visit, and she quickly dismissed the idea, explaining that she didn’t have the cognitive abilities to understand and modify accordingly.  Erajh and I agreed and the matter was tabled.  Time-outs continued at daycare, but did not occur at home.

Over this past Mother’s Day weekend, just after she turned 2, Greenleigh was exhibiting behavior that was unacceptable.  At first I wanted to cut her a break – she had been through so much in the adjustment to her new little sister and all the company coming through our house afterward – but I really couldn’t.  Hitting, kicking, and biting might be a part of the terrible twos, but they aren’t acceptable.  I had to do something.  Fast.  The cat, dog, and Hazeline were all depending on me and my sanity was dwindling.

Enter, the time-out.  If Super Nanny can do it, so can I, right?  I quickly found a place in our house to perform this ritual – the second step on our stairway would work perfectly.  It wasn’t long until we got a chance to use it either.  I sat Greenleigh on the step and explained what was happening.  The cat and dog looked on in horror as I blocked Greenleigh (the flailing, crying, screeching mess she had become) from leaving time-out.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of time-outs that weekend.

I feel that it’s important to interject here how much I utterly abhor giving Greenleigh time-outs.  I am away from her all day long when I’m at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is discipline her.  That is our time to have fun.  I would rather go on a walk with her, read books, sit at the dinner table and attempt a conversation about her day, or just watch a  movie with her.  I hate that so much of my night is dedicated to the count down before giving a time-out.  I feel that I repeat, “1-2-3″ more than we ever talk about her day.  But in fairness, she isn’t really all the receptive to talking about her day anyway.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but time-outs work for us.  No denying it.  After a time-out I can normally get Greenleigh calm enough to listen.  From there I can get the desired behavior or an apology for the inappropriate behavior.  Lots of times, we don’t even get to the time-out anymore; she often adjusts her behavior after I hit the number 2 in my 1-2-3 count down.  It really is astonishing.  I wish it weren’t true, because that would allow me to say, “Oh, they just don’t work for her” and I wouldn’t have to go through the agony of doing them in our house.  I truly loathe them and love them at the same time.

The other day I saw her try to put our dog Madison in time-out.  She pointed to the staircase and said “Puppy, Go!”.  Good thing, Madison doesn’t slow down long enough to be physically put into time-out because I fear that is what might have happened.  I would like to establish now that I am not going to time-out.  I will laugh hysterically the day she tries to put Erajh in time-out though.

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