Greg and I started timeouts with Victoria about 6ish months ago. Rewind: A few years ago, before becoming a mom, I watched a friend put her child, one that could not even walk yet, in time out, and it worked. I was amazed that she was already implementing behavior strategies with her child at such a young age. This friend was also a co-worker at my first teaching job. We were special education teachers for an Approved Private School for students with mental and emotional disturbances in the city of Pittsburgh. (it was the only full-time teaching job with benefits available when I graduated and after I signed a 2 year lease to live in the city) To say that we taught difficult students, was an understatement. We were trained in physical restraints and how to get ourselves out of choke holds, hair pulls, and bites. Needless to say, she had the experience to start implementing behavior strategies on her child before their 1st birthday. (which is a great thing for her now because baby #5 is due in March!)
College does not quite prepare you for the behavior management skills needed to survive a school day in that setting, it was all a learning experience. I taught for 2 years in that school and had 3 ER visits (broken finger, stabbed in the ear with a pencil and a really bad bite that required me to get a tetanus shot). I have the craziest stories to tell about my experience there, but that is another post for another day, keep in mind, I was a little 22-23 yr old (one of my students was 20 yrs old-insane!) with zero teaching experience, expect for student-teaching, but that was a rainbows & sunshine experience.
I walked away from my first teaching experience with the most important life lessons, structure & routine.
I did not realize at the time that I was learning the most important parenting skills, I was just trying to survive the flying chairs and the spit that would land on my face when a child was angry (seriously, the worst thing ever).
Fast forward, Greg & I had a baby and we never really discussed how we would discipline our children prior to having V. Honestly, I just figured, I would be the big-bad parent and Greg would be the push over. After all, I came from a home where mom was in charge, combine that with some behavior management skills I had learned through my early “teaching” experiences and it was obvious who the disciplinarian would be, right?
Around the 18 month mark, Greg and I decided as a team, that we would start to implement timeouts with Victoria. I knew it was going to be a long hard road, and there was a possibility that in the end it would not work out, because timeouts are not for everyone. I felt it was important to have a pep talk with Greg so that I would not have to always be the big-bad, meanie parent and we could share that role.
*we need to have a designated place for timeout (we picked a red kids chair in the kitchen, a central location that would be easy to access when the time came)
*we would need to physically hold her in the chair, kicking, screaming and red in the face (this went on for what seemed like forever, I think it was a good 2 months before she would stay in the chair without assistance. You know the feeling when your child finally sleeps through the night? That is the feeling we had when she started to stay in the chair on her own.)
*the amount of time she was in timeout did not matter, what mattered was that she would get up on our terms. This was a hard one for Greg, because he wanted to set the timer and GO! (he is such a numbers guy) He soon realized that was not going to work. Sometimes her timeouts are 30 seconds and sometimes they are 2 minutes, time does not matter at this age.
*she would not be allowed to have anything with her in timeout, hands-free
*verbal praise for successfully completing a timeout
And then those 2 important teaching and then parenting skills came into play…
Structure & Routine, and repeat x100
We were structured because we handled timeouts in the same manner every time. We would tell her to “STOP…” doing whatever and when she did not listen, it was right to time out. When we said go to timeout, we meant it. We learned quickly you cannot say to a 1 yr old “If you do that again, you will go to timeout” because all she heard was timeout, and off she went. Also, 1 yr olds don’t have the capability to know what “if you do that again…” means anyways, but we are rookies, and still catch ourselves doing that sometimes.
We were routine because every timeout experience was the same, she would sit in her red chair in the kitchen and stay in the chair until we allowed her to get up. Again, the amount of time she was actually in the chair does not matter, kids have no concept of time at this age.
After months of practice, I would say we are at the 90% success rate for timeouts, every once in awhile we have to hold her there or prompt her to stay in the chair, but for the most part she will go and stay there until we tell her to get up.
Does this decrease the behavior? Well, the jury is still out on that one… she knows timeout is not a good place to go, she doesn’t want to be there, which is fine with us. Our goal is that as she becomes older she will be able to make the connection between the behavior and the punishment and hopefully we will see the behavior decrease. Only time will tell, it doesn’t matter what the child development books say, your child is their OWN person and will understand behavior and consequences on their own terms, but if you keep the structure & routine, they may be able to make that connection a little sooner, that is our hope anyways, we will keep you posted!