Tantrums, Time-Out and Tired Moms | Teaching Self-Government

Tantrums, Time-Out and Tired Moms


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Hi, I am a tired mom who is really trying very hard to have all the time and the spirit in our home. I have 2 kids. My lovely daughter, is freshly 4 years old and my sweet son, is 20 months old. Ours days are packed with action. In our family meeting we discuss consequences for most of the situations… but my daughter always suggests and votes for the time-out. Well I agree that time-out is appropriate for the little one . But my daughter now needs serious consequences for stuff like: taking someone’s toy without asking, hitting, refusing to eat a meal, excluding a particular friend from her game when a favourite friend is there…..well the list can be long. Meanwhile my biggest concern is the time-out. Lately when ever I ask her to go on time-out, she throws a tantrum (screaming, crying …) and I have to drag her on time-out. Then she refuses to stay at the time-out place in the hall, I bring her then to her room ( which is close by). I do the calm voice and face and tell her that I will come back to check on her. When she’s calm, I praise her and make sure that she knows the time-out rule, then she goes on time-out for 4 minutes. Well the whole thing takes about 20-60 minutes. So on days when she earns to go more than 2 times, I get really tired of the crying and fussing… and I go to bed exhausted.

Please help me , is there an easier way or am I doing the right thing?


You are definitely at a very busy time in your life.  I have four children now, but when I had two young ones I was more exhausted than I can ever remember.  There are a few reasons for that.  When I had my third baby, I all of the sudden had children who could really help me out.  Also, by the time I had my third child we had improved our family government system a lot!  However, the most important improvement we made was we learned how to be more consistent. 

Time-out is still an acceptable consequence for your four year old daughter, but you will want to start teaching her a number of chores, so that you can start to transition to chores. 

Of course she wants time-out; it's easier for her than doing a chore.  My four year old still tries to convince me to just use time-out instead of a chore too.  His disagreement goes, "Mom, I know you want me to pick up all the books, but I don't want to do an extra chore, so I think I should just go to time-out instead." 

Although I am pleased that he knows how to disagree, I can't accept the disagreement because then I would be teaching him that if he doesn't like something he shouldn't have to do it.  Teaching this would make my son emotionally, and mentally weak.  I just can't do that to him. 

It sounds like you are doing a great job seeing the behaviors which are unacceptable.  I just have a few tips.

1.  If time-out is in the hall, that is where it is.  If you let her win you by not staying there, then she is learning to control you and will keep trying to control you more and more.  If she won't stay there, then she is not accepting her consequence.  This means she is out of instructional control.  Do you have a rule of three yet?  Don't do 24 hours with no privleges for age four, but maybe 2 hours with no privileges, or loss of sugar or snack for the day would be good.  Think about what really motivates her.  What would matter to her and then do a rule of three.  Remember to go through the rule of three in 10 minutes or less.  Don't drag it out or give her too many chances.  If you give her too many chances she puts off controlling herself.  The whole point is for her to recognize that she can control her own behaviors. 

If you don't think your child is ready for the rule of three yet, then you could gently hold her on time-out until she is calm enough to consent to stay there for her four minutes of calm time.  This means that while holding her you have to ask her if she wants you to let her go.  If she does, then you tell her that she has to promise to stay there herself before you can let go of her.  You shouldn't need to do this more than a few times before she will learn that it is better to just say, OK and go to time-out when she earns it. 

2.  It sounds like you might not be consistent enough yet.  It is so easy to think that giving children more chances to choose to control themselves is being kind.  It isn't.  The best thing you can do for your child is to immediately start correcting a situation and telling them what they earned.  If she is mean to a friend etc, walk over to her and say the same thing every time.  "Becky, you are not being nice to your friend,  you need to go to time out."  Then gently walk her there.  After she is calm, then talk about what she should have done and what she has earned.  Start giving her a small chore to do each time as a negative consequence. 

Once you consistently say the same thing every time she makes a bad decision or behaves badly, then soon it will go like this, "Becky, you are not being nice to your friend,"  Before you can finish, Becky will say, "Sorry mom.  I can be more nice now."  She will immediately become repentant and choose to change her heart.  Then she will sit on time-out and accept her consequence happily.  To top it off, she will try harder to be more kind.  This all happens because EVERY time she chooses wrong she immediately earns wrong.  Cause and effect.  Trust me, I know it is hard to be consistent when trying to care for a busy 20 month year old too, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

3.  If your interactions with your four year old over a certain behavior are taking 20-60 minutes, then you are giving in to her tantrums too much.  You are also probably trying to talk to her too much during her fits.  Do not answer anything she says.  I always say, "It sounds like you want to talk to me about something right now.  I really want to know what that is, but I can't talk to you about it unless you are ready to follow instructions."  Then I begin the rule of three and don't let it take me longer than 10 minutes.  The other children in your home deserve your attention more than your four year old if they are behaving properly.  You must go to them to show her that she can't control your attention, and that if she wants to get your attention, she needs to be kind and in control. 

4.  Don't ever allow yourself to get punished by her tantrums or negative consequences.  This is mostly a mental place you want to put yourself, but it is also a promise you make to yourself to never show your children any pain caused by their tantrums.  Children throw tantrums and sometimes earn negative consequences on purpose to gain emotional control over their parents, and it works unless the parents have already decided to not be affected, and to never show if they are bothered or put out by the behavior.  Lastly, it also means don't hesitate to get to the end of the rule of three.  Make it quick.  If they never get to the end of the rule of three, then they won't really think it will ever happen, and you torture everyone for 20-60 minutes all day long. 

It is so hard to give advice when I don't really know your four year old and haven't seen her tantrums myself, but I hope this helps.  This is generally what is needed to teach cause and effect better.  :)

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