Friday, November 12, 2010

Time Out

It was the fifth time he had taken a sip of water and let it run down his mouth and all over his shirt. I don't know what I was thinking when the words "If you do that again, you are getting a time out!" escaped from my lips. Sure enough - a mischievous giggle, another sip and another spill down the front of his already very soaked shirt.  I could feel my frustration building as I grabbed the time out mat (also known as a cute bath mat from Target) and sat him on it. He immediately laughed, stood up and walked off the mat. I grabbed him and sat him back in place. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Each time he would stand up and try to escape the mat, each time I would grab him and place him back on it firmly. I was trying hard not to react to him as he continued to giggle at me. This only fueled my frustration and the feeling that he wasn't "getting it". Eventually my "no reaction" resolve had been completely diminished and I was screaming at him to "GET. BACK. ON. THAT. MAT. NOW!" This was only met with increased giggles. Finally, I grabbed him and held him in place for the 60 second time out. Super Nanny would be very disapproving, I am sure.  

The thing is - I know better. The Tot is too young for time outs to be effective. I had actually attempted a time out once before with similarly frustrating results and my own assessment that he was "too young" and that I needed to wait a few more months before trying again. Yet, today, the threat was made without thinking and then I felt forced to follow through. In retrospect, I was the one who needed the time out. As soon as I felt my calm slipping, I should have just walked away. Instead I lost my cool and resorted to screaming and yelling - it's a parenting style that I despise. I don't believe in parenting through fear. I grew up with a step monster who yelled at us constantly and made us fear her so much that my step-sister and I would retreat to our rooms as soon as she got home from work in order to avoid her warpath. She is exactly the type of parent I never wanted to be. The type of parent I told myself I never would be. But, here I am - years later doing one heck of an imitation. 

I come from a long line of "yellers". My own mother yelled and my grandfather had a booming voice that commanded instant attention. I have always been a yeller but it's probably my least favorite thing about myself. I have always wanted to be the calm, graceful mother who could speak firmly to her child and get results. In retrospect, my problem isn't really with the yelling. My problem really isn't even with physical punishment, though I don't use it as a discipline method. My problem really is that I don't like parenting in anger. When I am angry, I am not thinking as clearly and I am not always in control of my actions. I feel that it's too easy for a situation to get out of hand or for punishment to be more severe than necessary because of the emotion behind it. Not to mention that it just shows the Tot that it's okay to lash out when you are angry and I don't want that to be the message he receives. Today was a perfect example of frustration overriding common sense in my head. 

I want to teach my child how to behave. I want him to learn right from wrong. I want him to know the rules and how to follow them. But, I also want to teach him to be kind. To be calm. To act instead of reacting. I don't want him to be afraid of me. I don't want to pass down bad behavior from generations of "yellers". I want to break that chain. I want to do better. I need to do better.

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