Unruly Child | Teaching Self-Government

Unruly Child


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"My question, as it relates to the above entries and to my four year old is what to do when he will not stay in time-out (on our washer)? He will not stay there. He runs after me, screaming. I put him back - try hard to do it calmly and sometimes I have tried to keep him there using my hands to keep his legs on the washer, but then I feel like I am forcing him and it all goes down hill from there."

I wrote an answer to a similar question over a year ago.  It is called "Tantrums, Time-out and Tired Moms."  The article should answer most of your questions.  It is alright to do a soft hold with a child to help him learn to want to stay on time-out himself to calm down, but you are right about it being a sort of "force." 

I don't like force at all, but I have held a couple of my children on time-out when they were tantruming or running away because they didn't want to choose to calm down or accept negative consequences.  It is important for your child to learn how to calm down and that they can choose to calm down.  Most people think they don't get to choose anger or calmness, they just have to go with what they feel and act it out.  This is a thinking error.  The only way we can show our small children that they are in charge of how they feel, or that they need to learn to accept consequences is to help them have success and get praised for it.  Show them it is possible with your love, support and kindness during and after the time-out period. 

For instance, If my child were running away from time-out I would go to my child and take them onto my lap.  I would say, "Brady, a few minutes ago you were crying so you needed to go to time-out to calm down.  You looked at me, said "okay" and went to time-out, but you didn't stay there or check back for accepting the consequence, so I know you didn't accept the consequence.  I also didn't get the chance to tell you how well you did at saying "okay" and accepting the consequence because you didn't finish accepting it.  Did you know I want to tell you how good you did at accepting the consequence?.............Now I am going to take you back to time-out to calm down.  After you sit calmly on time-out for one minute, then I will come to you and say, 'Yeah Brady!' and I will give you a big hug and high five.  Then you will get to do a small chore as a negative consequence.  After you check back for accepting that consequence, then I will say, 'Yeah Brady' again and give you a high five.  After that we will have a popcile and read a story to celebrate how well you do at accepting consequences." 

As part of this discussion, also tell you son that if he doesn't choose to stay on time-out then you will hold him there until he decides to accept his conseqeunce and stay there calmly for one minute without talking. 

If he stays there, wonderful, praise him like crazy for choosing to govern his own behaviors.  If he runs off, calmly go to him and take him by the arm and say, "You didn't choose to stay on time-out, so now I will have to hold you there until you say that you will stay there." 

Then hold him there gently but firmly.  The key to making this action not forceful is the spirit inside you.  If you are put out, then he will know and fight for dominance.  If you are calm, and really feel love toward him, then he will feel it through you and will calm down quicker.  Also, be sure to say, "I don't want to hold you on time-out.  Do you want me to let you go?  I will let you go if you promise to stay here until you are happy.  Will you stay here?" 

If they answer yes, then gently remove your hands praising his decision to accept the consequence.  At this point remind him of what you will do (hug, high five) when he is all calm.  Then be sure to DO IT! 

I wonder if you are praising each self government choice enough.  Try to do that more.  I know it is easier to look for the bad, but he is doing many good things too I am sure. 

Also, I would use time-out as a attitude changing place, not the consequence.  Then the time there is short and doesn't damage your relationship. 

Last, the pre-teaching I suggested above would even work better if you had the conversation before there was actually a problem.   Anything you can practice and teach before an issue occurs, the better.  You may want to take you son when he is happy and practice going to time-out for a minute.  Have him watch how long a minute is.  And then do the praise after.  Then follow up the practice with a story and a treat. 

Keep Swimming,


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