There are lots of things I could tell you about our fabulous weekend. We have all returned to the land of the healthy, and we enjoyed some gorgeous sunshine, friends and family. However. Pebble and I just experienced Pebble’s first ‘time out’. And I NEED to talk about it.
I do agree with ‘time out’. Time away to think. More importantly, I believe in the talk and action that takes place after the ‘time out’.
I use ‘time out’ or ‘thinking time’ in my classroom. It’s been different over the years depending on the group, the child, the behaviour. Sometimes it’s meant that a child needs to run around the oval until they calm down. Sometimes it has been a particular square of foam that they child sits on to think about things. Sometimes it’s been sitting outside the classroom. Sometimes it’s been a few minutes in our school sensory garden.
After the ‘time out’ we always talk about the things that happened before the time out. How and why it happened, and and how the child can help themselves to stop that behaviour from happening again. I’m not going to lie – some times it’s more successful than others. It is just one tool in my tool box.
I’ve been noticing some cheeky behaviour from Pebble lately. Pebble is a well behaved kid, with little dose of cheek. Your pretty average toddler. However she is 19 months old, and I think that she’s started to see that there are boundaries and that she can push them. She’s also starting to seek more control in her world. She can do it all herself, her way.
Sometimes, when I have asked Pebble NOT to do something, or have asked her to do one thing instead of another (eg. draw on the paper, not on the wall) she has chosen to do the exact opposite. Then laughed about it. I think it is time to start taking action.
I write about this now as if I have had a good sit down and think about it. Before writing this post I really hadn’t. Today I made a split decision to give Pebble ‘time out’ without really thinking it through or talking with Paul about it. That’s life. Stuff happens, we make decisions, we take action. Right or wrong.
Here is the scene:
Pebble and I are in the lounge room. Pebble approaches the couch with chalk in her hands and proceeds to draw all over the couch. Our couch is not precious. It’s second hand. It’s kid friendly. Chalk rubs off easily. This is not the point. It is not appropriate to draw on the furniture.
I asked Pebble to stop, and reminded her to draw on the board. Pebble laughed and continued to draw on the couch. I reminded her again, asked her firmly to stop. Pebble giggled more, drew some more. She thought it was a game. I know that she’s not malicious. I know that she’s not thinking RIGHT, I’m really going to piss mum off today. She is just testing. And it’s my job to respond to that test. If I ignore it I’m not doing my job properly. Right?
I picked her up and put her on the floor in a recess of our dining area, facing a boring bit of wall. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I did tell her, calmly, to sit and not to move. I then stood around the corner, and watched the seconds on my watch count down one minute. I peeked at 30 seconds (OMG - one minute is a really long time!) and she was facing the wall, looking very solemn. When I came back around the corner Pebble was just starting to stand up. I said no, sit down. She sat down. Then I got right down low and said what felt like far-too-many-words-in-a-row about what had happened. Then I took her to show her the couch (much like I used to do to my puppy to where he’d done his business on the carpet) and said, “no drawing on the couch”. She nodded seriously. Then I took her to the blackboard and said “draw here”. She nodded again. Then I said “shall we draw a picture?”. She nodded and smiled and the moment was over. Dealt with.
So. I decide to go and brush up on my early childhood knowledge with a little Googling. Yes, I have an early childhood education degree, but I have spent my early childhood career with 6 – 8 year olds. I wasn’t 100% happy with the time out experience today, something didn’t quite sit right. Sometimes I need a refresher course on the little ones. I quickly came across the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Inc. website and their Position Paper on Time Out.
AAIMHI concerns in relation to use of exclusionary (where the child is separated from the parent or caregiver) time out for children less than three years are:
- It does not teach constructive ways to deal with problems; instead it teaches separation as a way to deal with problems.
- It does not take into consideration the developmental capacities of young children under three. From an attachment and development-based point of view, children this age are experimenting and do not yet have the necessary skills to control impulses and emotion, i.e. their behaviour is not misbehaviour.
- It deliberately cuts off the child from the relationship with parent or carer so that the child feels powerless to connect with the adult; this cutting off from relationship is an intended consequence for the child’s behaviour and is seen by the child as a punishment.
- It does not address the message (cause) behind the behaviour.
- It fails to recognise that young children do not learn self regulation of emotions by themselves; they need the support of a parent or carer.
Ok. I could have a total Mother Guilt moment at this point. But I won’t. I tried something. I learnt something. As I am always saying to my class: are we allowed to make mistakes? YES! It is how we learn.
For me the next step is to talk with Paul about this and decide together how we’re going to respond to future ‘tests’ from our under three year old. I think it is SO important for parents to work together and support each other.
This has turned into a really long post. But I believe this issue is really important. I feel that, if we get this shit right, then it’s going to make our family life so much happier in the future.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with managing children’s behaviour. Do tell!