Time Out.

I’m working the program.  Yes, I am.  I have to.  You know why?  I can’t handle the screaming anymore.

You don’t know what program I’m talking about?  Why it’s the standard ABA “time-out” program, of course.   I’m hoping this manner of discipline will break the battle of wills that has come up recently.  Specifically?  My son knows it is inappropriate to yell inside the house or car.  He does it anyway.

It’s not like there is this long, high-pitched wailing going on (although, at times, it can happen).  It’s more like I’m lulled into this sense of kind of a low level of stress.  I let my guard down.  You know the feeling.  You have been working, at home or in the outside world, for a minimum of 8-9 hours.  You finally decide to give yourself a break.  You sit down.  Maybe try to get in a little reading or, feeling really luxurious, plucking your eyebrows.  Out of nowhere, there is an “AHHHHHH!!!”  Nerves frayed, heart racing, ears bleeding.

My natural reaction is – uh – not the flight choice.  My first, untrained, freaking out response is to yell back, “KNOCK IT OFF!” or better yet, “QUIT YELLING!”  while yelling.  You know.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I have done this with no improvement in the outcome of my efforts!  Can you believe it?

So, I decided to put the old, tried-and-true “time out” into full operation.  Don’t feel sorry for him.  He got more than one warning.  He knows the drill.

There is minimal set up time and expense so I really have no excuse for not implementing the plan.  I take one of his little kid chairs from his little kid table.  I carry it to our time out spot.  This is in a little hallway outside a bathroom.  No TV to hear.  No windows.  No toys or distractions.  Nothing interesting.  I open the “clock” app on my phone, set it for five minutes and direct him to the chair.

You think that’s that?  Oh no.  It’s just beginning.  First, he tries to talk to me.  “Mommy’s putting you in a ….” and he wants me to complete the sentence.  Ignore.  He twists and turns in the chair, trying to perform the Chinese Acrobat Act to make time out “fun.”  Without making eye contact, I put his butt back on the seat.  Ignore.

Next, he starts mumbling to himself.  “When it’s dark outside, it’s night time…You could play Smart Cycle.  I wanna be the blue one.  Yellow.  Green!”

This is the hard part for me.  I have to ignore and try not to laugh while he mumbles these things under his breath to himself, enunciating each syllable, and making quite the animated faces, while looking off in the distance with his trademark head tilt.  I usually keep my back to him so I don’t waver and make eye contact.

Five minutes seems like an eternity.  Let me tell you.  When he’s in time out, so am I.  If I walk away for even 20 seconds, he will get out of the chair and bolt to play with the first thing he can get to…

At least twice, on average, during the time out, he will try to suck me in to some conversation.  While I wait for the timer to go off, I will scroll through my email or Facebook to help pass the time.  He can see my hand movements on the phone and says, “Mommy is playing …….”  hoping I will tell him the name of some game on the iPhone or just engage in conversation, like a prisoner and a guard.  Ignore.

When that timer finally rings (I have it set to harp music) that kid bolts out of that chair like it was on fire.  He doesn’t wait to hear, “Time out is all over.  Why were you in time out?”  He’s gone three doors down back to the item that caused him to get the time out in the first place.

The current source of my nervous breakdown is all manner of electronic devices.  It could be as simple as a TV program.  It could be his DS, Wii, Smart Cycle (a bike he rides that has a video game component to it) or the iPad.  Lately, the two characters that seem to have prompted my most recent bout of premature aging are these guys:

Now, I’m not in favor of removing them from the menu.  Rather, I’m in favor of forcing the screaming from the menu.  So far, he has received five time outs in a period of about three hours- the last one being for a scream he did after he was in bed.  We’ll see how this method plays itself out.  Keep your fingers crossed.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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14 Responses to Time Out.

  1. Ugh. I gave up on time outs. Too many bruises (on me). Good luck with this round — maybe you’ll inspire me to get back on track!

    • solodialogue says:

      Well, he will sit in the chair but I’m not sure he’s correlating losing the fun activity for the 5 minute increments as a big deal. We’ll see whether it holds enough importance to subdue the screaming…

  2. C... says:

    The book I am reading on behaviors in children, Reconnected Kids, states that some behavior is normal. The child is trying to assert is individuality, his autonomy and independence. It even says to allow a child some room to do this, as constant correction can lead to a child who is insecure and afraid to be himself. I kind of see it both ways. I would hate constant screaming too, especially when I am tired. I hardly remember my son being that loud but I am sure he was. Now he’s more laid back but has a bit more attitude to throw around.

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh, I dream of the day I can say I don’t remember my son being loud. I think I may be in my 80s by then, however. 😉

      I do understand the idea that some of it is normal but my son does not have enough awareness of his surroundings to make a differentiation in when it is ok to use an outside voice and when it is not okay – he’s been starting it up in his kindergarten class – so I have to put the brakes on now. As he gets a little older, and he understands where it is appropriate and not to yell, then I guess we won’t need the time out for this behavior… There will definitely be others! Lol!

  3. Let me know if you find a way that works!

  4. Julie says:

    I found that framing it more as an opportunity to regroup vs. punishment has been very effective. I’ve even given myself time outs when I feel like I’m about to lose it (even sitting on the designated time out step). Last year at parent/teacher conference, my son’s teacher told us that a few weeks earlier, Dylan was acting up in class and she gave him a choice, sit in the time out chair or do what he was supposed to do. He, to her surprise, chose the chair. I explained that he needed to regroup – that’s how we use it in our house. She loved it.

    • solodialogue says:

      That’s pretty cool. I like it. Maybe I will work that in as part of a social story related to his screaming and time outs. I like the positive feel of it. Then, maybe, he will actually think about why he is in the time out. That would be really useful! Thanks Julie!

  5. Lizbeth says:

    I wish we were back in the time-out stage. We moved out of that and are now in the with-holding the favorite item (I-anything) and pray to God he wants it bad enough to behave. Sigh. Funny thing is, it seems to be working. Give the time out some time, it will work and T will come around. At minimum it will establish not to mess with you and you’re in charge.

  6. I loved this post!! It’s so STINKING true!! It’s time out for the parents as well!! (No fair!)

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of using the iTouch for the timer bit, that way Mama doesn’t have to get bored too!! Not sure how that would work out though… I think if I implemented it now, it might set off more screaming because the iThingies aren’t “mine”. **sigh** I know, a total push over. At least they’re not fully his either **lol**.

    Our garden is completely enclosed though (no chance of him escaping), so sometimes if he just seems like he needs to let off some steam or I really don’t have any fight left in me, I just chuck him out into the garden and give us both some peace.

  7. Flannery says:

    Ugh, time outs were horrible!!! They didn’t finally start to work until last year. Now we just stick with the time out in his bedroom. He can look at books in there, but it drives him crazy to be away from us, so it does the trick.

    Good luck, sister, you’re gonna need it!

  8. Lana Rush says:

    I’m curious to see how this turns out…. I’ve never really done an “official” time out with Lily because I just don’t think she gets it. BUT, if I stood there like you’re doing….. maybe….

  9. blogginglily says:

    I have my phone timer set to the duck quack. Lily hates that damn duck. In my case it notifies her that it’s time for her to get off the potty (when she’s delaying going to bed).

    “I no like duck.”

  10. Kelly Hafer says:

    Man – I had this entire long, great response typed out but my computer froze. I HATE when that happens!

    So, short and sweet. TOs are a lot of work. This work pays off, I promise. We’re at the point where the boys know that their TOs don’t start until they are still and quiet. Sometimes that takes 5 minutes other times it takes 10-15. Then once they are still, I set the timer. They wait for my permission to get up, and we all go on with our lives. It has taken 18 months to get to this point, but we are here.

    Be strong. Be consistent. Be brave. It gets real ugly before it gets better.

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