During two different times in the evenings, I get overly frustrated (to put it mildly) with my children. It’s almost a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario with both my darling angels and myself. Usually while I’m making dinner, and during clean up afterwards, we all become our alter egos. On such nights, Paul is working late, so it’s just me refereeing our offspring, but I should be able to handle them.
As I busy myself in the kitchen, the kids are playing freely in the living and family rooms. For a brief few minutes, everything goes well. Ian plays with garbage trucks or his train set, and Laurel drops book after book off the shelf until she finds one of interest. Before long, Ian yells out, “No, Waurel!” and she is crying.
I quickly head in their direction. Typically, Laurel enters Ian’s space and decides to play with one of his toys. Appropriately, he tells her, “No.” Inappropriately, he grabs the toy away from her and pushes her down. She’s not the sturdiest on her legs yet, and sometimes rolls and hits her head on something. My response is to put him in time out, set a timer for two minutes, and give Laurel love and hugs. Sounds like a good solution: give the attention to the victim, ignore the culprit, and try to extinguish the inappropriate behavior. The problem lately is, Ian won’t stay in time out, or he’s acting silly rolling on the floor or pretending to fall down, knocks over nearby chairs, or like last night, plays with the nearby garbage canister and knocks it over spilling its contents across the kitchen floor.
That’s when I lose control. I put a still crying Laurel down in the other room and attend to Ian. He is placed back in time out, and reminded (by me yelling at him) that he needs to stay there and has lost a beloved toy like a garbage truck or train figure, whatever he seemed to be playing with just before the incident. Laurel typically follows me to our time out location, and her cries get louder with each passing minute. Ian seems to get more hyper, won't stay put, and I end up holding him in time out.
Once upon a time, we had a “jail” that kept Ian contained, but he is so big that he can lift it and get out. He’s also too big to go into a playyard. We started training him to stay in time out on his own, and he was successful with it for a while. Sigh, the last few weeks have been a different story.
Now, time out has become a reward. Ian’s receiving my attention, yes it’s negative, but it’s still attention. And Laurel is crying behind me, not being comforted. At this point, I want to run off and hide in a closet, but can’t, because either the stove is on or Laurel will try to eat from the trash strewn across the floor.
Enter Paul, who comes home from work only to find two crying/hysterical children, and a wife who wants to hide upstairs. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he jumps in and helps. He comforts Laurel while I have Ian help clean up the trash. Then once the kids are calm and occupied, Paul listens to me while I vent my frustrations. Brilliant man, he doesn’t just listen, he offers a solution: the next time Ian needs to go to timeout, we should strap him into a booster seat. No, not the booster seat he currently uses for meals, but a different looking one so there is no connection. We will call it the time out chair.
Once we put the kids to bed, I head off to the store to buy a time out chair. I find the cheapest booster costing $12.99. It’s ugly, and it doesn’t look like it will last forever, but it is completely different from Ian’s current booster chair. I get home with my find, and Paul immediately sets it up in the corner we typically put Ian in for time out.
First thing this morning, I show Ian his new time out chair. I explain to him that he will sit in the time out chair for two minutes if he does anything that hurts Laurel; including pushing, bumping, biting, hitting, and throwing toys. I also remind him that if Laurel takes a toy or is bothering him, he can get me to help by just saying, "Mommy help!" He understands, nods his head, gives me a hug, and runs off to play.
Midmorning, Ian pushes Laurel while taking a toy away from her. I check to make sure she is alright, although crying, and walk Ian over to the time out chair. I strap him in, look him in the eye and sternly say, “Ian, time out for two minutes for pushing Laurel. We do not push people.”
He actually sits quietly during those two minutes, something that has not happened in a long time. Once his jail time is up, I ask him, “Ian, why are you in time out?”
“I don’t do what mommy says.”
I want a more specific answer, so I redirect, “Ian, what did you do to Laurel that made you go to time out?”
“I push Waurel down.”
“We do not push people down. You need to say you’re sorry to her and give her a gentle kiss.”
We find Laurel chewing on a block. Ian walks up to her and states, “I’m sorry Waurel,” and kisses the top of her head.
This is hopefully the beginning of many successes. Paul works through our dinner rush again tonight. We’ll see how it goes.