Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time In/ Time Out

I briefly mentioned in my weekend in review post that this past Sunday Drew and I attended a parenting class on discipline. Due to our limited time constraints with the church service, Dr Lawson focused exclusively on time in/time out. I was intrigued by the topic mainly because I've never really been able to grasp how to effectively use time out. And not to start a debate, but I also feel like a lot (not all) of people veer more to time out as a means of discipline, but they do so SO ineffectively that their children are completely unruly. One of my readers and bloggy friends Laura asked a bit about the class, so I thought I would try to recap what jumped out to Drew and I the most.

The first thing that Dr Lawson talked about was HOW we speak to our children when it comes to commands or requests. A lot of times adults try to talk to children like adults, and cognitively a child is just not able to break apart a command like an adult would. He basically outlined it by stating that commands should be stated to a child:
  • directly (ie, pick up your shoes please NOT can you pick up your shoes?)
  • positively (ie, NOT you NEVER pick up  your shoes)
  • specifically
  • one at a time
  • simply
The other thing he mentioned is that just because your child can articulate something does not necessarily mean they understand. This really rang true for us since Brayden can articulate "yes" when he knows he does something wrong, but we really don't think he understands WHY he is saying yes.... just that that is how we want him to respond when we are trying to explain what our rules are.

The next thing he talked about was "carrots and sticks." Basically he said that in parenting we have a 'parenting bank account.' You can either make deposits or withdrawals in that bank account. He considers punishment withdrawals; it's ok to write checks, but if you make too many withdrawals without also making deposits, you'll eventually overdraw on your account, weakening your relationship with your child, and ruining the close, open relationship you'd want with your child when they are older. He said that for every negative/criticism, it takes 7 positives to make up the difference (and for what it's worth, this is in all relationships, not just a parent-child relationship). So to give the rewards (the deposits) you give "carrots" and to make a withdrawal, you give punishment. To give the carrots, he talked about a "time in" approach, where you intentionally spend time with your child to make those deposits. This time is one on one, and is not rules based. During this time in approach (in which he used a 5 minute model-- and by the way, 5 minutes of one on one time is 3 times the national average that parents spend with their children, which in my mind is UNBELIEVABLE!) you will: describe appropriate behavior (shows your child you're paying attention), describe appropriate language (shows your child you're listening), praise appropriate behavior (shows what behavior you like, builds self-esteem). During this time you do not criticize and you do not give commands. If there is a negative behavior, you ignore the child until they change. I've naturally done this time in approach, but never really realized it's true value until Dr. Lawson (the speaker) layed it out like this. It totally makes sense, and we're going to be more intentional in our home about implementing time in every day.

Unfortunately Dr Lawson was rushed for time towards the end, but he did touch on the time out a bit at the end, and what he did touch on we really liked. Basically, once you get the way you say a command to your child down, give clear warnings if a command is not followed through on by your child. If they disobey, then they go to the time out chair for the desired amount of minutes. They stay there until you come back... this shows that YOU are in charge. When you come back, ask if they are ready to do the command. If they say no, then repeat why they are in the chair, and leave them there until you get back. You repeat this until they are willing to comply with your command. Obviously with younger children you would need to restrain them in some way to ensure that they stayed there. It seemed to make a lot of sense, and is something that we're going to try and implement in our household instead of using time out in the crib (which by the way, Dr Lawson said is generally not as effective).

SO, that is the break down. Not sure it helps any since you weren't there to hear it, but it really made us think about other options that we may not have thought of. I know we especially were hit hard with how we speak to Brayden. I think we were just expecting a lot out of him. Not that I don't think he's not smart, because he totally is, but I am just not making things simple for him, and that doesn't provide an environment where he can win right now.

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