A few weeks back, we were desperate. My daughter’s tantrums had driven us to the brink of insanity. Well, not exactly the brink. We were over the cliff and plummeting to our imminent demise. (See “Major Meltdowns” and “Surviving Easter ‘Break’“) Well, I can’t say that we’re not insane anymore – that’s a very subjective state. But things have changed dramatically.
We took our daughter to a therapist who’s wonderful. My daughter loves her and gets so excited about her sessions. The first thing the therapist did was to recommend a book, “1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.” I admit I haven’t finished the book (Because when do I get a chance to read? There’s a DVD too if you don’t have time to read a book either). But the basic premise is this: When your child acts up, you give her two chances to shape up, and if she doesn’t, she goes to her room for a time out. Doesn’t matter what she does in her room as long as she serves her time.
We’ve been using this method for about a week and a half and we’re experiencing a global climate change in our home’s atmosphere. Before the 1-2-3 method, the kids would fight, or whine, or yell and we’d tell them to stop. They wouldn’t stop. Then we’d ask them if they wanted a time out. No response. We’d tell them they were acting like they wanted a time out. No change. Then we’d yell. My six-year-old would run away crying and my three-year-old would ignore us.
With the new method, when a kid starts whining or fighting or anything else we want them to stop, we calmly say “That’s one,” to let them know it’s their first chance to shape up. If they continue, they get another shot. If they don’t shape up, they get a time out.
My daughter’s response to the method was almost immediate. She usually stops by her second chance, sometimes her first. My son is taking longer to come around, but after a few time outs, during which he cries and cries, he’s starting to understand that he has two chances before his time out.
Better behavior from them makes us enjoy our time together more. For the first time in what seems like eons, we’re enjoying our children. I used to dread weekends because the kids had so much time and opportunity to misbehave and that would lead to fights and Daddy yelling and general chaos. This weekend, we took the kids to the beach. My daughter and I hunted for sea glass while my husband watched my son in the water. My daughter didn’t have any meltdowns and we all had fun together. When my son came to lay on our towel, we didn’t bemoan the loss of couple time, we tickled him and rubbed his back. We gave our kids our full attention and we didn’t mind at all because there was no drama. Neither of us even looked at a cell phone.
We still have a healing journey ahead of us, but we’re so relieved to be out of the fight and yell cycle and to have a handle on the kids’ behavior. We’re still working on our parenting and we’ve got a lot to learn, but we’ve made progress and we’re all better for it.