Mommy I Need a Timeout
There are times when your youngster’s behavior is really out of control. He’s hitting, screaming, yelling, throwing things, and saying “no” to everything. Your child may not be old enough to explain his stressful behavior but his non verbal body language is your cue that he needs a timeout.
Before you lose it, take several deep breaths to calm yourself. The more composed you are the better able you will be to get things under control. You want to deescalate the situation and find out what is wrong. Fortunately, children come with tools they use to understand the world around them. Their face, hands, legs and imagination. Your awareness and knowledge of your child will help you to say and do the right thing.
First, find a quiet place to sit with your child. Observe what she is doing. Is your child looking down while talking to you, moving her arms, swinging her legs? You want to meet her at her own level, get into her world. So start doing what she’s doing. This is called matching and mirroring a behavior and is the quickest way for you to experience what your child is feeling. Then ask her if she is feeling sad, mad, worried, etc.
Your child may not yet be able to put his feelings into words. If this is the case, show him pictures of faces expressing his feelings and emotions. You can draw these expressions simply as a “smiley face” cartoon. For example, draw a big smile to show happiness, eyes looking down for feeling sad, a furrowed brow for worrying, a teardrop and down turned mouth for unhappiness and so on. Have your child point to the picture that describes how he is feeling.
Happily, children’s moods can be changed instantly because they live in the moment. What is going on now is all that matters to them. That is the beauty of childhood. Good memories balance out the bad feelings immediately and give your child a sense of having the power to make things right. Help him find his happy memories. Assure your child that you love him regardless as to the way he is acting or feeling. You can say for example, “I love you even if your feelings are hurt, you won’t share your toys, etc”. Give him a hug of assurance.
Then ask your child to again point to the face that looks like what she is feeling. The goal of course is that she points to the happy “smiley” face. Don’t rush this time together. Continue the hugs and assurances until she points to the smiling face.
Now is the time to teach the lesson of sharing, correct the behavior, or do whatever the situation calls for to make it “all better”. You can use songs, rhymes, poems, or cartoon characters to help make your point in a “fun” way. Helping your child cope with stress is also a wonderful way to ease the stresses of parenthood. You’ll both get enjoyment from this timeout.