When my daughter was 17 months old, I didn’t even consider using time-outs to discipline her. She’s too young, I thought.
Then, at 17 months and 4 days old, she decided to pound her pink block against my face repeatedly, despite my advice that she ought to stop hurting Mommy. It’s time, I thought.
So there I was, nervous to take my first disciplining venture and skeptical about how it was going to turn out. Am I going to do it right? Am I going to say the right things? Am I going to cave-in and let her get away with it? Should I have just switched the block out with a softer toy and let her continue pounding away?
I made my decision and wanted to follow through. I used some advice I learned years ago while watching Super Nanny. I grabbed my daughter’s chair, stuck it in the corner of the kitchen and told her to sit there for a minute (Super Nanny’s rules: 1 minute in time-out for each year-old) and think about what she’d done.
My husband overheard the situation and came to observe, while I cautiously backed away and stood beside him. My daughter had just reached the copying stage and was becoming very expressive in her facial features and body gestures. She stayed sitting, facing the wall and began waving her hand, saying “No!” amidst some very firm baby talk. I peered over, saw the furrow in her brow, and realized that she was mimicking my reaction to her behavior.
My husband and I couldn’t hold back the chuckles and were quietly giggling behind her for the remaining 40 seconds of her time-out. This was just too cute!
When the timer went off, I turned her chair around, explained to her the reason she was there, asked her to say “Sorry” and she gave me the sweetest apology-hug that I’d needed before running back to her toys. If a time-out was going to be this adorable, we just might be able to make this work!
But it doesn’t always go this smoothly. Just the other night, she refused to listen and pulled the bottom drawer of the entertainment center halfway out, precariously using it as a step stool to turn the television set on and off. She writhed and screamed the entire walk into the kitchen corner and I had to repeatedly sit her squirmy bottom down, only to leave my ears ringing from her piercing scream.
For the entire 60 seconds, I felt like a goalie – blocking and catching a tearful soccer ball toddler who was bound and determined to make her goal out of the corner and back amongst her toys. I must say, Baby won that one. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and contemplated my defeat.
We realize that it’s not always going to be easy. It’s not always going to be fun. And we might screw it up sometimes. But as difficult as it is to say “No” and discipline someone so little and adorable, we also realize that starting early and being consistent is our best chance for allowing her to remember those lessons as she grows. It gets easier each time – for all of us. And when the timer goes off, and we hear her sweet voice tell us “Awrry” and she shares her most genuine hug, that shows us we’re doing something right.
When do you think it’s appropriate to put a child in time-out? And what strategies have you found to be successful or not?
Heather Disarro is the writer behind the food blog Heather’s Dish and the coordinator of the beauty blog Faces of Beauty. Heather and her husband live at the base of the Rocky Mountains in the Denver metro area and are constantly active, especially with their two crazy lab mixes Bunker and Keira. When she’s not out hiking or skiing you can find Heather in her kitchen, whipping up a delicious meal, eating at a favorite restaurant with her husband, or out grabbing coffee with her girlfriends. Send her a tweet at @heathersdish.
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