I’ve written before about the fact I don’t use the naughty step or time out with S. I thought it might be useful to show some alternatives, of things you can do instead of issuing a time out or banishing a child to the naughty step…
Time In & Cuddles
Instead of sending her away to “think about what she’s done” or whatever, I ask her if she needs a cuddle. Often the answer is yes, and she will sit in my lap and cuddle while we talk about whatever she’s done that was less than ideal. I say things like “we don’t throw things because they might hurt people or break something!”
If she says no to a cuddle, I’ll hold her hands and sit on the floor in front of her to tell her why whatever she’s done wasn’t the best option. Even if she’s already done it fifty times. I find if I’ve asked her not to do something and she’s become particularly irate about that, she might need to be asked two or even three times whether she needs a cuddle. There’s no point in trying to explain anything to her while she’s busy auditioning for Drama Queen #4 in the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I give her space to have a bit of a wail, and then I offer a cuddle again. Eventually, nine times out of ten it’s a yes.
I’m not going to lie; this one requires a lot of patience. When you’ve already told a child fifty times that they really shouldn’t throw that/tear that/stamp on that, it’s hard to stay calm and offer a cuddle. Often I end up raising my voice: please don’t do that! and then she gets upset and we have a cuddle and talk about it, and I apologise for scaring her.
Quite often, having a cuddle is of as much benefit to me as it is to her. It calms me down, and when she has her arms around me it reminds me what’s really important in life – not the play doh she’s just smooshed into the carpet or the pen she’s just put on the wall, but the fact that she is her with me, and we are both ok. I would never want her to feel I value my damage deposit over her, and a cuddle reminds us both of that.
This one is really hard too. My natural instinct is to stop her being hurt before it happens – but if she never falls down, she’ll never know it hurts and to avoid having it happen again. Obviously if there is real danger (like that time last week when I went upstairs to find she’d emptied the toilet rolls onto the floor and put the bag on her head) I don’t let it play out. If there’s real danger I tend to shout no no no, don’t do that! and then backtrack to option 1 above – because really, how is she to know she shouldn’t put a plastic bag on her head? That’s my job.
If she’s balancing her toys on a shelf above her head though, I will tend to say that will hurt if it falls on your head, won’t it and let her decide for herself whether she thinks it’s a good idea. She’s only 3, and often will carry on until it falls on her head, and then come to me for a cuddle, where I will explain why it was a bad idea and give lots of sympathy and kisses.
Putting Myself in Time Out
Sometimes when S has done something that’s made me a bit irate, I’m too stressed to do “time in” with her and sit and have cuddles. When that happens, I tell her I’m going to the toilet, and I go and hide in the bathroom for a few minutes until I’ve calmed down a bit. Sometimes, there might be a bit of frustrated shouting. Once I’ve calmed down a bit, I go back to offering cuddles.
Often when S is “acting out” she’s doing it because she wants my attention – so the fault is not really hers. If I’m preoccupied with something else, and she does something she knows will get my attention, is that to be punished? I often find if she’s doing something that might be deemed “misbehaving” it’s more about figuring out why she’s doing it than making her stop – even though in the heat of the moment I just want her to stop!
Don’t get me wrong; it’s difficult. S was a dream of a baby who never really cried, and we never really had the dreaded “terrible twos” – but now she’s three, she’s coming into her own. There’s this quote from Ariadne Brill:
Learning to calm down instead of melting down takes time, practice and encouragement.
I try to remember that whenever I can. But more importantly, I have seen this photo on my Facebook timeline a lot lately; I even shared it on my own:
I can remember being sent to my room as a child. I can remember being smacked for doing something “naughty.” I can remember all sorts of punishments. Not one of them made me sit down and calmly think about my actions, or whether something had been the right or wrong thing to do. All of them made me feel ashamed or wronged or unfairly treated. All of them made me think that thing no parent ever wants to hear: I hate you.
And so instead of the naughty step, I give my child cuddles and love, in the hope that she will learn right from wrong without the need for punishments or shame.