Time out. A mamma’s best friend and biggest nightmare, right? Half the time I don’t know if I should put my kid in time out or put MYSELF in time out. On more and more occasions I lean toward sitting myself in the corner, no talking to anyone, just sitting and thinking about what I’ve done. This would probably be some of the best five minutes I spend in a day because thinking? What’s that? Sitting down for no good reason? Never heard of it.
As moms we don’t really function in thought. We are more like ninja cats, always ready to react, to deal, to handle. I think we can agree that this can be a precarious spot. This balancing act of staying open minded, patient, a good listener, and level headed seems beyond my realm of capability.
Instead, I’ve shifted gears. Several years ago, it began to dawn on me that when my kids were being borderline crazy town (this is a person, not a place.) I would want to separate myself as much as possible from their issue. Whatever it was, big or small, it rankled me. Really it offended me that I had spent some unknown amount of time teaching them to be the exact opposite, and how dare they, in my face, do the exact opposite. I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life.
So I shifted gears. Gone are the days of time out. May I introduce you to a little something I call Time IN.
Here’s what it looks like. Junior is getting sassy? He needs more time practicing conversations with his mamma. I like to sit, face to face, no other distractions. We do things like write thank you notes that are long over due or play a card game. Coloring and legos are nice diffusers as well. Start off small and work your way into the more meaningful conversations.
“I noticed you seem frustrated when you talk to your sister. Is everything ok?”
“What can you do when she is being so frustrating to you?”
“Maybe we can come up with a nicer way to say how you are feeling, so she hears you and actually changes her behavior. What do you think?”
I hear what you’re thinking. You feel like it would be too much to stop every day, many times a day to handle a situation this way. It is surely a commitment. And I will be honest. Sometimes you may have to choose staying home or setting something you prefer down so you can get that face to face. But that’s all time well invested to avoid doing this same thing when they are teens or adults.
It’s also perfectly acceptable for Time In to include chores. My chores. Because that my friend is real life. When I am in the middle of doing the dishes are Little Rita can’t keep her hands to herself. Yes well, then how about you walk right on over here, Little Rita, and help Mamma with her dishes? We can have the same conversation over dishes as we have over a coloring book.
“So. I am curious. I noticed you used your words in talking to your brother, and he didn’t listen. I am proud of you for trying. When do you think you got too frustrated to keep trying words?”
“What could you do next time after you’ve tried? Let’s come up with some ideas now so you are ready. Although I really like you helping me with the dishes.”
Not everything needs to have a severe punishment. Somethings can be handled with a conversation and five minutes of face time. We are relational humans. As adults we like to process and vent and be heard. It’s the same with our kids. We can teach them how to do this in a healthy way.