Time Out

This is a personal and tender story about my Warren that I wasn’t going to share publicly. But after thinking it over, I felt that it was something that might do some good to post.

Warren never went through the “Terrible Twos.” He tried out hardcore tantrums about 3 times and gave up when he realized that I am more stubborn than he. Not to say that he never has bad days, but really, they are few and far between.

Today was one of those few rather than far days. Granted, it was jam-packed with activities and pretty dang hot, which can make anyone grumpy. He was super tired, as well. But the meat of the problem was more emotional in nature: he was jealous of time I had spent babysitting a friend’s infant. How do you express such a complex emotion as a three-year-old? You throw a fit. And that’s what Ren did.

It started slowly. He didn’t want to eat PB&J–he wanted tuna fish. He didn’t want to eat 3 snow peas– he wanted zero. So, he threw one pea across the room. I watched him eye his target and, with firm resolution, hurl that veggie with all his might. Surprisingly, I was calm. Stern, but calm– something I’ve been working on (a post on “patience” yet to come). I tried to offer him a time out, a chance to calm down. I usually take him to the stairs and ask him to sit down until he’s ready to stop crying.

He would have absolutely none of it. He wailed, and screeched in frustration. Usually, I can tell him to take a deep breath and ask him to calm down, and he does. Not today. The more I tried to help him compose himself, walk away to give him a break, hold him to soothe him, the angrier he became. He even hit his head against the wall, about 4 times. It still didn’t make him quit.

I don’t know exactly why he stopped crying, but he finally did. And this is the point that I want to remember: Instead of trying to make him see how disobedient he was, or get him to apologize for behaving the way he did, or any of the other myriad ways that I would typically try to parent him, I took my own time out. I squatted down next to him, looked at him and said, “Renny, look at my eyes. I love you.” Normally when I tell him to look at my eyes I follow with a statement of significance or great importance, but it’s usually something like, “Don’t do X again,” or “This is your last warning…” Yes, this time my statement was significant but also more important.

His whole face–his whole countenance–changed. I could see that he knew it was true, that I really meant it. Maybe it was all he needed to hear. Maybe it was all I needed. I knew that once things had settled down completely, and we had started eating lunch, I could talk to him rationally about other choices he could have made, or what kinds of feelings prompted his outburst, which I did. It was a good conversation. But foremost he needed reassurance through three heartfelt words. The remainder of our day from that point on was great.

Life is hard from the get-go. There are choices and mistakes you make, even as a three-year-old, that can give parents grief. But no matter what, I always want Warren to know that I love him. I have no doubt that securing that knowledge in his heart and mind is an essential part of my job as a mother.

5 thoughts on “Time Out”

  1. Nice, I can’t wait for your post on patience. There is a book I read recently that I really liked and gave Zeke and I nice insight to our kids. I have read the 5 love languages before, but there is one for children specifically. It was eye opening to me. I thought of that book when I read your post.

  2. I’m so glad you posted this! I will try this – today. I’ve been having a hard with Allen lately and it’s nice to get ideas from others. Thanks.

  3. Isn’t it funny how even though we have chosen to be mothers–and often to stay home with our children because they are our most prized possessions and we want to make sure they get the absolute BEST care– we forget to express our love to them!! I too find that when we are having a bad day, it’s usually my own fault because I haven’t taken the time to show how much I care or to just stop for a moment and give my undivided attention. And then I get resentful when my husband does the same thing to me!! Thanks so much for reminding us that we need to parent with love more than with punishment/ negative reinforcement (had to throw that psych term in there!).

  4. Great post, always good to be reminded that our children need to hear they are loved ALL the time, not just when they are good

  5. Jeanne, what a sweet post! I had tears in my eyes as I read it. I always thought how terrifying it must be for them to be that out of control – so much emotion in those little bodies. Haley was the same as Ren – I can count her tantrums on my fingers…Jake is another story. But I’m always sure to end his timeouts by asking if he wants a hug. They need that reassurance, as you clearly know. You are such a great mom and inspire me to try harder!

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