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Move YOU, Not Them

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When they won't go to time out.
Lots of parents rely on “time-outs” as a discipline technique.   I don’t mind time-outs, if they are applied the Adlerian way.  However, I want to offer up an alternate solution, you can add this one to your parenting toolbox for times when time-outs are not working:  MOVE YOU INSTEAD.
I don’t mean the ole “Mommy is going to put herself in a time out to calm down before she acts badly.”  I am referring to impacting the dynamics by excusing yourself from being the audience of your child’s disturbances.  If you have a child who is a powerhouse, you’ll only make matters worse if you try to remove them from the dinner table for a time out when they start acting up.
Try this instead:  “I’d love to stay and have dinner with you, can you calm yourself or do I need to find another place to eat?”  If they continue on, simply say. “When things are calm I will join you again.”  Take your plate and calmly move yourself to eat in another room.
The idea is that you can’t MAKE them use table manners and be calm, but the benefit of using our society rules for meal-sharing is that people enjoy eating with you.  Because children are social creatures, they do want your company and will be intrinsically motivated to adopt our table customs because they benefit from your company.
Remember, when things are calm and you return to the table, it’s bygones! Don’t discuss their behavior, just get on with engaging positively.
Cooperative table behaviors – everyone together.    Disturbing table behaviors – mommy goes.    They’ll figure it out quickly, sans fights and lectures.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

8 Responses to “Move YOU, Not Them”

  1. Stu Chandler

    Hi Alyson;
    I tried posting a comment, but it was not accepted. Is there a word limit? Or do I need to register somehow? I did enter my name and e-address at the end. Can you help??
    Stu Chandler

  2. Stu Chandler

    Hi Alyson;
    My short message was just accepted. So perhaps there is a word limit.
    I’ll try to break up my original message that got refused.
    Stu Chandler
    Part One:For Alyson Schafer – March 30, 2009
    Hi, Alyson. I’ve just started reading your book, “Honey, I Wrecked the Kids”, and find myself in agreement with the vast majority of what you have written. I also believe in a democratic style of parenting, with a non-punitive, yet non-permissive approach. In fact, I have assembled a large list of parenting books that espouse that approach, plus ones that come very very close to espousing it. I agree that there is a parenting revolution under way, and I am very pleased about that, as I see it as a hopeful sign that future generations will know better how to live in a democracy, so they are not imtimidated by authority, and actually make some positive changes in the world – changes that are long overdue, particularly in the areas of both human rights, and “planet rights”.

  3. Stu Chandler

    Hi again:
    Part two:
    On the topic in question – Your suggestion about leaving the table is an interesting one, and may work if not used too often. However, I have at least 6 concerns. One is that the effectiveness of this tactic depends heavily on the relationship you have already established with the child, yet you have not mentioned that caveat. Without that positive relationship, the “power house” in question may see the parent’s reaction as actually an abdication of any real responsibility for conduct at the table, and realize that he is now powerful enough to force his parent to leave the table. A child, where the parent-child relationship is already a problem, would likely still feel some sense of hurt that the parent has left him, but he would be able to sustain such a “flesh wound” as pretty incidental in the larger (misguided, naturally) war for more power. A second concern is that, if you have such a positive relationship that it troubles the child to see you leave, you are actually using that relationship as a tool to punish the child for his “misbehaviour”. Using your relationship with the child to punish will inevitabley damage that relationship, perhaps such that it may not take the strain of a really serious conflict in the future. My 3rd concern is that it establishes the norm the it is OK to pick up one’s plate and leave the table if one does not like what is going on (which can actually mean – for any old reason at all, including as a protest for some real or immagined concern, or out of boredom, or as a ruse to get to watch his favourite TV show, etc.) as opposed to staying and attempting to work through a problem. My 4th concern is that, suppose you are the parent of a family with more members than just you and the power house. By extension, it would be legitimate for all members who are disturbed by the one child’s behaviour to leave the table and eat elsewhere. The minority would be “forcing” the majority to leave. That does not seem like “democratic” parenting to me. (Although I must assure you, I’m not suggesting that the majority should banish the minority member.” My 5th concern is that it teaches the child nothing positive in the realm of problem-solving, other than the tactic of leaving the scene, which may be useful in serious circumstances. My 6th concern is about the suggestion to return to the table and say nothing about the incident. Under those circumstances, I would suggest saying very, very little, other than something like, “Thank you for helping me feel welcome at the table” and reminding the child of the normal expectation that “We will need to discuss this later, to see if we can figure out a better way to deal with how to behave at mealtime so everyone feels welcome at the table.”

  4. Stu Chandler

    Hi again;
    Part three:
    As an alternative approach, I would suggest staying and solving the problem at the table in a way that demonstrates a respect for EVERYONE’S NEEDS. I would respectfully suggest that you seriously investigate the Centre for NonViolent Communication. What they have to offer would add to your already great knowledge of Democratic Parenting. (It has been said, “You can never learn less”.)
    I must say, however, that I like your book very much, and I will be recommending it to parents as well as others who work with children and families. It is now officially on my list of excellent parenting books.
    Sincerely, Stu Chandler

  5. Alyson Schafer

    Hello Stu,
    Thanks for posting! Great contribution of thoughts. I see your points. In the power struggle chapter, I talk about “DROP” the rope, the “O” standing for Offer an Olive Branch and for LISTENING and working to understand so you can get to win / win. I also talk about using family meetings to discuss issues NOT in a time of conflict. Once your embroiled in a power struggle its very hard to get parent and child to problem solve successfully. A skilled adult can end the power struggle and get to the important conversations of problem you are recommending.
    Sometimes its hard to balance out all the principles and tools and I can’t get TOO prescriptive in an post since the dynamic as you point out is always at play and must be understood and will differ from family to family. Hopefully, the more tools and information the more parents will make sense of the ability to live without domination tactics at all.

  6. Jennifer A. Temple

    Dear Alyson,
    Are you familiar with “P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training”, it fell from grace a few years back because “the author has no children…” I read and used that book. He did not need to have children to write P.E.T. because it is really all about effective communication! I remember my first lesson! I was reading a suggestion and very dubiously decided to attempt a lesson. A son that never had much to say started talking and it was like a dam was let go. We have been communicating very well ever since. I have given that book to every new parent I know. (My other fave was Barbara Colorosa’s book, “Discipline, Kids Are Worth It” or “How to win at parenting with out beating your kids.” I just wondered if you had read it and if you found the book to be a good tool. Its really all about “active listening.”

  7. Alyson Schafer

    I sure love P.E.T and Barbara Colorosa. Both have roots in the work of Alfred Adler and Dr Rudolf Dreikurs. Learning how to discipline in a non-punitive way and building up a healthy respectful relationship where parents still set and enforce reasonable limits and boundaries is still a “new art form” and its good that we are sharing resources and dialoguing about how to do it! Appreciate your posts! Alyson.

  8. Melanie

    Great post. I have tried the tactic of removing myself… Challenge is that one of my sons runs after me. I’ve tried locking myself in my closet and ignoring the behaviour but it then feels like a powerstuggle between him and I until he or I gives up as he kicks and screams outside my door. Suggestions?


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