more on timeouts + a family of sailors

Thanks for all of your thoughtful responses on timeouts. It seems that many of you have used them in a number of contexts with plenty of success, which is great! I also noted that there were a number of poll respondents who did not use them at all, but none of you responded! I’m curious about your reasoning and methods for guiding behavior at this age too if you’re interested in adding to the discussion.

We are at a place where we are exploring other options for discipline beyond the timeout. J and I are both of the philosophy that these new generations of kids are wired differently, that the old positive/negative reinforcement approaches aren’t necessarily as effective on the whole. So we’re trying our modifications. The “timeout right here” is usually BG-enforced, and it’s typically a quick reset, after which we can talk about why the behavior was problematic. This happened yesterday when he bit me while nursing. I set him next to me, and he said, “Timeout right here!” I said, “Yes, BG.” I took a moment to compose myself while he reset, and then we chatted about his behavior. Right now, those chats are primarily about cause and effect. “When you bite, you hurt Mommy!” “When you throw food, it makes a mess!” (He doesn’t like messes.) Honestly, these little chats are really helpful because they get him to start processing–maybe not in any sort of complex way, but kids his age do understand cause and effect, so playing to his strengths seems to be the thing to do right now.

We’re also trying something else we’ve read about, which is sort of this do-over approach. BG has a nasty habit of throwing food on the floor when he doesn’t want it. Today, he did this with a couple of crackers. I picked the crackers up, and put them back on the table. I said, “BG, you know we don’t throw food on the floor. Now, try again. When you don’t want your food, put it in this bowl.” He put the crackers in the bowl. Tonight, when he had some tomatoes he didn’t want, J and I watched in amazement while he placed them in the bowl we had left on the table. We have had perfectly executed timeouts on the food on the floor issue with no results. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but today, the Mulligan was just the thing to make this lesson click.

So perhaps you can see why we’re interested in different approaches. If you’ve got others, feel free to share here!


And now for some adult behavior modification.

My wife is a former sailor. It’s true–sort of. She was in the Navy (okay, so she served entirely on land), and true to form, she has a mouth like, well, a sailor. I have nagged her on more than one occasion to be careful about her language around BG, and in the past year since he has started picking up language, she has gotten increasingly better. More and more her “damns” have been replaced with “darns.” She has come up with creative names to call bad drivers (which explains why we talk a lot about asscots and jackals in the car). She really has done a good job, and I’m proud of her!

I too have long been fond of choice expletives. I have always been able to switch that off, but there are times when I lose my filter. Generally around BG I’ve been pretty good. The car, however, is my one exception. I’m not one to experience road rage really. Instead, I get upset with myself, especially now that we’re living amongst many more people (drivers) than I’ve ever experienced on a regular basis.

Well, the other day in the car, we were pulling across a particularly hairy intersection, and I missed seeing a car that was coming up on us in our lane. It was a freaky little moment (and the car actually slowed to let me in, but that’s irrelevant), and in that freaky little moment, I let it slip: a quiet but audible, Fuck!

My son started giggling uncontrollably. And then, out of his perfect little mouth came, “Fuck! Mommy say fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” And the giggles continued.

I was in the process of recovering from this near-miss in traffic, but all the blood that had just drained out of my face in fear returned to my face in utter shame. Fuck.

A moment later, BG said, “Thunk!” Which is his queue to flip the driver’s side visor (he likes the sound). J said, “That’s right! Mommy said, ‘Thunk!'” BG giggled again. “Mommy say fuck!

I thought I might die. We didn’t react at all. We both stayed silent, just totally silent and poker-faced for as long as we could (although admittedly stifling laughter), and occasionally reinforced the idea that I had said, “Thunk.” Eventually we moved on, and we hadn’t heard anything from him about it in a couple of days.

Today, my wife confessed to me that she had a moment of frustration when she was with BG today, and she blurted out, “Damnit!” Well, our little parrot apparently began spouting, “Damnit! Damnit!” and then seconds later, not skipping a beat, said, “Mommy say fuck!”

So, um, no, he hasn’t forgotten the word, nor that I’ve said it. He knows it’s a “special” sort of word, and he loves it, despite the fact that we haven’t given him any reaction about it to indicate its power. Certainly it will lose its allure at some point, I keep thinking, but no. No it won’t. It clearly hasn’t for me.

We have truly entered a new era with our son. I adore how verbal he is, but oh. my. god. And next weekend we’re going to see my parents and probably my grandmother, and all I can think is that he’s going to tell them, “Mommy say fuck!”

And he will be right.






Filed under behavior, discipline, language

8 responses to “more on timeouts + a family of sailors

  1. He will forget it, and you’ll look back on this one day and laugh. You’ll see.

    One of my mom’s favorite stories about me is the time when I was probably 2 or 3 and a car swerved in to cut us off. While she was busy avoiding an accident, I asked from the backseat… “Mommy, is he a jackass?”

    In addition, Thing One has been known to gleefully recite some “no-no” words herself up until she was around 4 years old- (how do they KNOW those words are bad?!?!? It’s like they take extra special glee in saying them because they just instinctively know that those words are forbidden!) – however, at the ripe old age of six, nary a cussword can be heard. So don’t be too hard on yourself…. it happens. And it sounds like the situation warranted a “fuck” anyways. 😉

  2. I wanted to comment- not specifically about this post but how glad I have been to see you writing more again. I enjoy your narratives and thoughts about raising your son. Thanks for trigging thoughts and conversations between my partner and I – and in this situation I love what you are doing for ‘time outs’. We do it here in our house- try and be swift, quick and just offer a re-set. We don’t call them ‘time-out’ but more just take a moment and re-set. Typically my son will go in his room, bang around release his frustration and then be able to talk about it. Has worked well thus far for us…

  3. Lex

    I had to laugh at this one. I was a preschool teacher for a few years as I was going through university and will never forget doing phonics with one wonderful little girl. We got to the “fuhs” and she stopped and said, “My daddy says the fuh word when he has too many beers…” I heard many things about many parents in that job.

    I imagine BG will forget in time… hopefully before learning his phonics? 😉

  4. Oh my gosh! That is TOO funny! I’m sure you think so too Haha! But seriously, what a story to tell him later in life!

  5. Last summer my son had complete control of shit and oh crap for a few weeks. But he has forgotten it all. It is hard to edit swearing for some reason!

  6. I seriously laughed out loud at this post. Thunk – hilarious. PS: is the food in the bowl trick working? This is a huge issue at our house.

    • reproducinggenius

      It actually is working! This has been one of our biggest issues with BG, and while he still slips, he mostly knows he needs to put food in the bowl when he doesn’t want it. In fact, yesterday, he dumped some peas on the floor, but immediately after, realized what he had done and asked to pick them up and put them in the bowl. It takes some practice, but I think we’re onto something.

  7. I like your do over idea. Thanks!

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