The Daughter Chronicles

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Taking a timeout with Mia!

As Mia gets older and a bit more independent, she naturally becomes more free-spirited and, of course, undisciplined. I have mentioned before (I think) how difficult it is to teach Mia the meaning of "no," because for such a long time, she was unable to do anything, including anything wrong. But as she gets older, she's starting to be the purely evil child we all know she could be! And that leads to the ultimate punishment of the modern, non-spanking child ... the timeout!

Krys was reading up on punishing kids with brain injuries, because we're never quite sure what Mia understands and what she doesn't. Kids, of course, tend to have short attention spans, and Mia's is less than normal kids, so if you delay at all with punishment (or reward, even), she might not connect the dots too well. So there's that. But the book suggested that most kids understand the concept of timeout, even though your kid may vary. We're pretty sure that Mia gets enough of the idea of "no" to understand when she's doing something wrong. Of course, that still leaves the problem of her not doing too much, and even less that it bad.

Except the hitting. Why Mia likes hitting people is beyond us, especially because she really doesn't hit me very much at all. She's actually starting to hit me a little more, but she has been hitting Krys for a long time, with some breaks in the action. For a while, saying "no" to her was good enough, and she stopped. Recently, however (the last six months or so), she has started hitting again, and she has also hit her therapists now and then. Whenever Krys (or any of us) say "no" to her, she laughs. We're not sure if she just hasn't learned yet that hitting hurts and thinks it's some kind of game, which is probably what it is. She gets "no," but probably not the fact that it does hurt occasionally. So we have started, recently, putting her in timeout.

The biggest problem with this is figuring out where to put her. She doesn't sit well enough to put her in the corner facing the wall, and getting her into her chair is a lengthy process, to the point where she would probably forget why we were putting her in there in the first place. So we decided to lay a mat on the floor in her bedroom and put her on it, away from any stimulation. We put her in there and close the door for 4 minutes (for her age), and then go get her. So far it seems to be working - she's hitting a little less, even though she still does it. But we know it's a long process, so we're taking what we can.

This is one of the less obvious things about raising a kid like Mia. Sure, the major problems are there, but it's very hard to gauge how much she understands and can learn. She knows quite a bit and is making good progress, but it's still hard to fathom her. I know all kids say what they want without really thinking about whether it's an actual answer, and Mia's favorite word these days is "no!" She answers it to everything - "Do you want milk?" "No!" "Do you want juice?" "No!" "How was your day at school?" "No!" "Are you a girl?" "No!" - so we can't really be sure what she wants. We're hoping that as we continue to stick her in her boring bedroom, she'll eventually learn that if she hits, she will be put there. Whenever she hits Krys, Krys asks her "Do you want to go in timeout?" to which she will invariably answer "No!" Then she hits Krys again, leading to her exile. It's vexing.

We have also focused on the hitting, because we don't want to overwhelm her with reasons to go in timeout. Most of her offenses are very minor and often not repeated, so we figure we can let those slide. The hitting, though, is a pretty regular feature in her repertoire. We're pretty sure it's because she's less independent than most kids, but that's no excuse.

So that's our attempt to tame the child. It's like a rodeo!


  • Having worked with adults with learning disabilities, and trying to help them learn that some actions are not socially acceptable, I think that it is very much - as you are finding- a case of adjusting theories to suit each individual. I think time out works really well, because there is always a risk when saying 'no' that in fact you are reinforcing the behaviour. Speaking to them, giving eye contact, your undivided attention (however briefly) can be a positive, even when you are trying to use it as a negative.
    What I was unprepared for as a parent and spending much more time with children, is how each child responds so differently. Mine, appears at least, to deliberately act to get herself placed in time out when she is over excited - almost as a self -regulation tool (very odd I think for a 2yr old). But, honestly, she will be running around shouting and playing. Then stop, walk over to me and hit me. Then she will go and put herself in time out!!
    Children are amazing.
    Parenting is so confusing.
    I am so glad I have a chance to do this.
    Sorry this is so long - your post obviously really caught me!

    By Blogger Custancia, at 5/1/07 3:20 AM  

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