In my last post, I compared the cultural perception of timeouts with timeouts the Ezzo way. Here I’ll offer some tips on how to implement this form of timeout.
Briefly, here is what you don’t want to do:
- Have him sit for the sake of sitting
- Have him sit in or near the main area of the house
- Chase after him to make him sit when he won’t
- Issue a set time limit of one minute per year of age
- Tell your child what he did wrong
- Require a simple “sorry” by way of apology
- Ignore the state of the child’s heart
- Give hugs and kisses and assume all is right
When you do timeouts the Ezzo way, you want to:
- Isolate him by sending him to his room or some other spot away from the main activity of the house
- Seek a happy and repentant heart
- Determine the length of the time out based on how long it takes for your child’s heart to be in the right place
- Allow your child to determine how long he needs to sit
- Rely on first-time obedience to keep your child in his timeout
- Have your child tell you want he did wrong, not the other way around
- Have your child offer a sincere apology
- Have him apologize to others he offended or have him right the wrong in some other way
- Follow these tips whether you’re at home or at the store, a friend’s house, in the car, at the park, etc.
Putting these ideas into practice will vary depending on your child’s age. Here is how timeouts work in my home:
When William does something wrong, I will immediately send him to his room to sit on his bed. I don’t issue warnings (he’s old enough to know what he’s doing), yell or repeat myself. He’s not allowed to do anything while sitting (play with a toy, read a book or listen to music). If he goes reluctantly, that’s my indication that I will likely need to set a time limit, and I will tell him he will sit twice as long if he doesn’t go right away. I don’t chase after him, drag him by the hand or even follow him upstairs. (Here is where all your work in achieving first-time obedience pays off.)
While he’s sitting, I will walk by his room or peek in on him with the video monitor to check the look on his face. If he’s still angry, I’ll keep him there. If he seems peaceful and ready to repent, I will go in to talk to him.
When I talk to him, I don’t tell him what he did wrong. I have him look me in the eye and tell me. At five years old, he knows what he did wrong. There are times when he won’t look me in the eye, or he will say he doesn’t know or that he forgets. When I hear this, I will walk away and tell him I will come back when he can tell me what he did wrong. I know he knows. When this happens, it’s usually something serious that he did that he really doesn’t want to own up to or say out loud.
When he’s ready and willing to tell me what he did wrong, I will ask him why it was wrong. This is where your moral training pays off. You want a true reason. Something along the lines of “I disrespected you” or “My unkindness hurts my brother’s feelings” is acceptable. You need more than just “It’s wrong” or “It’s bad.”
When I can tell that he’s sincerely repented his actions and knows why they were wrong, we will talk about what he can do to make it right. Usually, this involves looking me in the eye and saying, “I’m sorry for ____.” If he hurt his brother, I will require him to offer his brother a sincere apology while looking him in the eye. There is more to this idea of restoration, which I will discuss in a future post.
Once he has apologized, I will offer my forgiveness by giving him a hug. This allows us to wipe the slate clean and not hold any grudges, which is a huge motivation in disciplining your child.
Timeouts are very different for Lucas, who is just 2. His timeouts happen in his crib upstairs or in the playpen we have set up downstairs. When he is old enough to be out of a crib, we will start having timeouts on his bed. Obviously, first-time obedience is not as much of a concern here because I simply pick him up and put him in.
With Lucas, I react just as quickly and swiftly as I do with William. Again, he knows what he did wrong. His offenses are different, but if he deserves a timeout, it means he knows better.
I won’t set a time limit for Lucas either. I will peek in on him or check the video monitor to see the look on his face. With Lucas, I can often check the status of his heart just by listening to him. If he’s crying or screaming, he’s not giving me a happy and repentant heart. In this case, I will go to him the minute he quiets down.
As I get ready to discuss his offense, I double-check his heart. When I bend down to look him in the eye, he will either look me in the eye or he will turn away or even lie down in the crib. If he looks me in the eye, I know he’s ready. If he turns away, I know he needs more time. If this is the case, I will walk away, telling him I will come back when he’s happy.
Since Lucas isn’t very verbal, I will tell him what he did wrong and why it was wrong. I will ask him if what he did was wrong, expecting him to nod his head. I will ask him if he understands, upon which I always get a “yes, mommy.” I will then tell him to tell me he’s sorry, which he says in his own toddler way. If there is more that needs to be done (like pick up the food he threw on the floor or tell his brother he’s sorry), I have him do that as soon as I take him out of the crib. (Again, here’s where your work on first-time obedience pays off.) Then we do hugs and kisses.
As you can imagine, getting his heart in the right place is what’s most important for Lucas. There is less to discuss simply because he’s not as verbal as William. The discussion is more one-way, which is fine. As he gets older, I will require him to tell me what he did wrong, why it was wrong and make it right.
To conclude, make sure you follow every step of the timeout process to ensure your child learns from it. If his behaviors aren’t improving, it’s possible you’re missing a step and need to reevaluate your timeouts. Above all, stay calm. Your child will obey and respect you more readily if you react swiftly and calmly. And don’t forget those hugs and kisses. Your child needs to know that you love and forgive him and that the end of a timeout means a fresh start.