Well, I might (MIGHT) be making progress in my discipline journey. I did some Google searches on time out alternatives. I did some thinking. I did some meditating. I read Jane Nelsen’s book called Positive Time-Out: And Over 50 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles in the Home and the Classroom. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Jane said, but I got some ideas. And here’s what I came up with.
My meditation mentor, Amy Bloom Connolly, taught me the acronym:
T ake a breath
So, when things get stressful, you S-T-O-P. Kind of like a grown up time out, yeah? In an a-ha moment, I observed that this is exactly what a kid needs to do in a time out. But how to explain it in a way a four year old can get it? I did some experimentation and came up with this:
S it down
T ake a break
O r questions
So, a kid is getting out of hand. Maybe she hit her sister. I ask her to come sit in my lap (Sit down). I hold her and cuddle her. Maybe we sing or hold hands. This isn’t a reward; I am training to help her brain stop going bottom over tea kettle so she can access the intelligence I KNOW is in there (Take a break). When she’s ready, I ask her some questions: “What do you think it would be like living in a family where it was okay to hit each other? Would it be good or bad? When you hit Buzzy Bee, do you think she felt happy or sad? In the future, do you think it would be nicer to use words or hitting to work out a problem?” (Or Questions). Again when the girl is ready, she may go Practice what she just learned.
The questions are OR questions because direct questions (“How do you think Cricket felt when you took her toy and ran away?”) got me the Blank Stare of Discipline Death. Who knows, direct questions might work later on but this is STOP for 4 year olds and this is where we are.
One of the things that Jane Nelsen asked in her book (and I’m paraphrasing here) is this: “What is more important? That your child learns for the future or pays for the past?” Well, duh. That they learn for the future. Hello.
So this is what I’m experimenting with. It’s going alright so far. I’ve found the S-T-O-P helps me, too. I sat Cricket on my lap for an STOP yesterday and as she took a break, I looked at her and realized “She’s not doing as I ask because she’s hungry. A ha!” The STOP ended right then and lunch started. Problem solved. That’s actually one of my favorite things about this age: there is very little that food, sleep or a trip outside won’t fix. And now some STOP. Let’s see what that fixes.