Back in the day, I was a fairly heavy user of “time out” as a discipline tool. Then one day I realized it wasn’t the kid who needed a “time out”, it was me.
I’d always presented “time out” as an opportunity, not a punishment. The idea wasn’t to make the kid feel bad, it was to give her a chance to catch her breath, re-center and come back to our activity ready to participate. It sounds pretty good, when I put it like that.
Turns out, I need those “time outs” even more than my daughters do. Now, instead of waiting until one of the kids is wound up or out-of-control and then enforcing a “time out” with her, I tend to do one of two things:
- Put myself in “time out” as soon as I notice I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or testy.
- Choose a quiet “time out” activity like drawing or reading a book for us all to do together.
This works. When “time out” was a discipline tool for the kids, it really felt like a punishment. Giving myself permission to take the “time out” instead feels like a reward. I disappear to my bedroom for a minute, or two, or five. I lie down, take a few deep breaths, rub a cat’s belly. Sometimes I’ll read a poem or jot a note in my journal. I just give myself a little break.
This makes me a much happier mom. My kids are old enough now that I can walk away from them for a minute or two safely, and doing so let’s me avoid pretty much every situation in which I’d be tempted to lose my temper with them. Turns out, the more even-tempered and happy I am, the happier the kids are. They’re much less likely to misbehave when they’re being watched over by Happy Mom, compared to how they act up under the auspices of Cranky Mom. Those little “time outs” can transform a rough afternoon into a smooth, blissful one.
The kids often follow my example. If I lie down for a few minutes, one or both of them might join me and snuggle quietly until we’re all calm, happy and ready to get up and back to whatever we were doing before. Sometimes they take the initiative to retreat to their own room for some quiet reading or drawing or listening to music. At other times, we take a family “time out” by sitting around the table drawing. It’s not as relaxing as being alone in my room with Jane Austen and a cat, but it’s another activity that makes me a happier mom.
What makes you a happier parent?Do you ever need a mommy-sized “time out”?