When I first discovered that I was going to become a parent, lots of things sped through my mind, bombarding my fears and preconceptions from every angle. Everyone was ready to offer advice, which I repeatedly solicited, and everyone shared their own stories and experiences. It was hard to avoid two in particular. The first is so ubiquitous it’s ridiculous (like that?), and that is the concept of “Terrible Twos”. The second, almost as famous, is the method of punishment/discipline known as the time out.
As much as I heard about both of these things, it never really hit home until I experienced them for myself beginning several months ago. I have to say that being at home all the time simultaneously with this kicking in has given me a better perspective on the whole thing. My conclusion thus far? The “Terrible Twos” are, hm…OH SO REAL, and the time out, while grounded in good intentions, has thus far been an exercise in futility.
Ah yes, the proverbial exercise in futility, first conceived, I believe, when the biblical Jesse of Bethlehem kept sitting son David in a corner for throwing rocks at the bigger children…or did it really start with a young Dennis Rodman? One can never be sure. In any case, my experience with the time out method tells me that it is marginally effective at best, though we are not intending to abandon it yet. Much like my other current time-consuming project, the job search, it is an exercise that you must continue to utilize until it either proves successful or irrelevant.
This all comes into play only due to the firestorm that is the “Terrible Twos”. I have been told that not all children go through the “Terrible Twos”. For some it waits until the threes, or even the fours. For some, I hear whispers, that it never arrives, and those shame-on-you-for-how-lucky-you-are parents just skate on by with some abnormally well-behaved little darling. Without researching any kind of data, I will go out on a limb and say that those special little children are by far the exception, so most parents reading this will know exactly what I am writing about.
It begins with the child learning two key words, i.e. “No” and “Mine”. Please understand that these two words will sometimes mean what the dictionary says they mean, and sometimes will mean almost anything else. This is quickly followed by the child’s development of favorite things to do/eat, and finally a desire to test the limits of his or her independence. In the case of my little Jekyll/Hyde, Xavier, this phase (Era) has arrived right on schedule, and with a vengeance.
Please don’t misunderstand me, a good portion of the time, Xavier is as sweet and happy as any two-year-old could be. He is outgoing, charming, funny, and packed with energy. I absolutely love him, and cherish all the time I do get to spend with him right now…unfortunately, he spends a fair amount of that time in the aforementioned time out.
The root cause for his extended stays in time out revolves around his complete and utter unwillingness to listen. He “knows” this is why he spends so much time there as most of his sits resolve with an amazingly sincere-sounding “I’m sorry for not listen.” So, why then does the time out seem to lack any real impact? I think it is because this is simply part of the development that any child must go through to help them understand and define their own personality and moral/ethical barometer. The fact that their undesirable behaviors are consistently followed by an unwanted consequence must help reinforce in their mind what they should and should not do in life…right?
One alternative, spanking, is not an option for me. One thing I do believe is that we teach our children what is right and wrong through our own behavior as much as anything else, and I would prefer that my child learn to deal with conflict calmly and rationally, e.g. the time out, than through corporal punishment. It seems to me that I and my siblings grew up as very normal, law-abiding citizens (my brother’s penchant for being a parking scofflaw aside) and were never subjected to either spanking nor the time out to the best of my memory. Those friends of mine who did get spanked, seemed to get it A LOT, so how effective was that?
So, we will continue on with the time out, hope that these “Terrible Twos” end sooner than later, then move on to the next phase, whatever that may be…until Hayden hits the “Twos” that is.
What about you all? Any opinions on the subject, either yea or nay? All feedback is welcome from both those with experience and without.