Time-outs are not a common thing in our home, but they happen. Mary Tyler Son just turned three years old and every once in a while that adorable angel, the fruit of our marital love, acts the fool.
Yes. It happens.
We follow a fairly standard time-out routine. Having just turned three, Mary Tyler Son is now doled out three minutes in the time-out chair instead of two for his indescretions. Most commonly, those involve hitting one of us, kicking us, or simply not responding to our directions without them being repeated a number of times. I see red when my boy is impertinent. There is no way in hell that I would have ever been allowed to sass my Irish Catholic father. Mary Tyler Dad is more patient and forgiving on that count. Not me.
Believe me when I say that Super Nanny taught me everything I know about toddler discipline. For reals. That gal is smart. Like Toddler Whisperer smart. When her show was cancelled, my heart started beating fast, as I never fully paid attention to her discipline strategies for older kids, tweens, or teens. Mary Tyler Son is %^&*$# after age five (UGH – I just made another promise to my Dad that I would not swear on MTM).
But he is not five yet. He is just three and that means I have two more years to worry about discipline post toddlerhood. That will come later.
Right now, I am struggling with our current time-out protocol and with Super Nanny having left me high and dry, I need help. Your help.
Mary Tyler Son is smart. And feisty. Kind of like me. He does not like his time-out accommodations and getting him to sit still in the designated chair (a super cool mid-century restaurant booster seat in bent wood and red vinyl, yo) turns a three minute time-out into a 40 minute ordeal.
He knows his Dad is coming from a different discipline place and style and has conned him into having a time-out in his lap or on the top stair (so unsafe when you have 14 stairs). He knows I am a glutton for punishment and will spend the time it takes to keep his toochus in that little piece of mid-century perfection. I will do just as Super Nanny instructed and without words keep returning that boy to his seat.
At some magincal point in this interaction, without fail, it becomes about THE PRINCIPLE for me. If I tell my misbehaving boy to sit in a chair for three minutes, dagnabbit it, he will sit in that chair for three minutes. This has made time-outs a bit of a contact sport in our home. Mary Tyler Son strays and I retrieve. The clock does not start ticking until his bum in on the seat. He knows this and challenges it every last time.
This is tiring. Exhausting for both of us. Silly, really, but still necessary, as I do not want to raise a brat that has no respect for rules, boundaries, the needs of others. No, siree! I want to raise kids who are aware and respectful of others and their needs. This is “non-negotiable,” a term I use frequently to alert my son when something is a deal breaker.
Okay. That said, I don’t always have 40 minutes to administer proper discipline technique, expecially as Mary Tyler Son is most likely to misbehave during transitions — time for bed, time for nap, time for leaving the house, time to eat. And, yes, I always give fair warning that these transitions are happening. Exasperatingly, he never hears these warnings and ignores the timer my mother-in-law cleverly suggested we use at the five minute mark. Sigh.
So anyways. Yesterday we were both home. We were tired and cranky after a weekend away visiting grandparents and getting home late. (Thank you, United Airlines, for allowing me to experience the joys of entertaining my boy at boring mid-sized airport for an extra couple of hours!) Mary Tyler Son had a bit of a stomach bug, too. Minor, though. In retrospect, I think it was just the re-entry to our routine that was upsetting to him. He missed his grandparents and the lovely time they showed him.
He kicked me after my explaining for the umpteenth time that No, we were not going to the Shedd Aquarium to see fish. This despite he himself having gleefully stated he did not want to go see fish as he needed a day at home to “rest.” He kicked me. No freaking way my boy is allowed to kick me. And kicking and hitting are non-warning events — Mary Tyler Son knows that kicking and hitting lead to an instant time-out. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
Well, as expected, his shenanigans started. Honestly, folks, I did not have it in me to wrestle him for 40 minutes. After returning him to the time-out seat the third time, turning my back and hearing his little feet follow me, I made an executive decision. I headed straight to my bedroom, shut and locked the door, and steeled myself for three minutes while Mary Tyler Son wailed and carried on just outside. Yes, I did. I might have checked facebook during those three minutes. Maybe.
At the end of those moments of deep breathing on my part, I calmly opened the door, kneeled down to talk to my boy, and dropped my jaw when he said, “I’m sorry Mommy. I’m sorry for kicking you.” He then reached his little arms around my neck to give me “cuddles and kisses,” just like Super Nanny taught us.
What just happened? Had I stumbled upon the greatest thing since pre-cut green beans? Had the time-out gods smiled down at me, providing divine revelation about a different way? Was I to be the next Super Nanny, elevating the ABC schedule to new heights of amazingness?
I don’t know. It could be simple dumb luck. It could never be duplicated again. I will definitely report back. With Super Nanny in retirement, we all need some guidance. How could she have ever left me? Sigh.