Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When a "Time Out" Is Still A "Time In"

Julia makes her way to the small trampoline and slowly climbs onto it with all four limbs. With her last leg in the air, moments from completing her ascent, she feels a tug on her clothes and a shriek. It's her brother, David, who in his quest to amuse himself has found his unsuspecting little sister. A stronger tug pulls her off the trampoline and a push knocks her onto the ground. He follows it up with half a dozen slaps and a happy shriek. In the wrestling world, it would be considered entertainment, but Julia's protests assures us that she's not entertained in the least. Mommy is forced to quickly intervene, giving David a "time out."

This is a normal everyday occurrence in our household. In fact, there are days where it occurs almost every ten minutes. I don't believe he's trying to hurt her intentionally - at least not usually -but he tends to play a bit too rough with her.

To curb this behavior, we've tried imposing time outs. While his time outs used to mean something with regard to his treatment of Julia, they've lost a bit of their impact. The main reason is that after David starts his timeout, Julia will actively seek him out and plop herself beside him! At this point, David will still be in time out but he can continue his rough play with Julia.

In fact, despite any pain or discomfort David inflicts on Julia, they're inseparable. If one child is absent, the other is visibly upset. Julia is always very happy to see her big brother, despite the inevitable "abuse."

So how do you discipline a child from hurting his younger sibling, when that younger sibling will purposely seek out the attention of the older sibling? Other than moving David's "timeout" from the corner up to his bed/room, is there anything else we can do? Could it be possible that we're a bit too cautious? Is it possible that we're disciplining for normal play? Is there a real danger here or just a perceived one? My psychology classes in college didn't cover these scenarios! (Then again, perhaps I was asleep during that particular lecture...)

Yeah, I know there's no guidebook that clearly gives the answers so I've decided to ask a professional.

"Cannot predict now."

Damn you, Magic 8-ball!!

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