Like many parents, we use timeouts to discipline Brenden and it has worked very well for us. It's something we plan on using with Lauren as well, when she's much older and can understand actions and consequences. I thought timeouts would be easy, and they are, but I didn't realize it wasn't just sending him to his mat and making him sit for a predetermined amount of time.
One of the first changes we made was asking him to tell us why he was sent to timeout. Most of the time he's able to tell me and I think it really reinforces which behaviors are unacceptable. We also made sure to turn off or pause the television and walk away from him. Any kind of distraction seems to take away from the punishment and we want to make sure that every timeout counts.
Not long before his birthday he started screaming. Not the I'm-so-excited screaming we were used to. It was a very angry, scream in our faces kind of thing. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. He doesn't go to daycare or preschool (we're working on that) and the kids in our neighborhood didn't do that in front of him. I had to look closer to home. I had to look at Tim and myself.
I didn't realize just how much we were yelling at him. I don't think we were being scary, we were just yelling every time he was in trouble and he learned that when you're angry, you yell. I'm obviously the most at fault since I spend the most time with him. I felt awful! Tim and I sat down and decided the best way to handle it was to change our behavior first. I'm a firm believer that how I speak to Brenden is how he will respond to me. If I'm calm, he is usually calm.
The amount of screaming in our house decreased dramatically. He didn't stop completely, and I never expected him to, but it was a very nice change. The only problem was that the timeouts didn't seem to be stopping his bad behavior anymore. He also wasn't listening very well at all. At first I was attributing it to simply being 3 years old. Eventually, I decided that was only part of it.
For Brenden, we had to find the right balance between using our "you need to stop right now" voice and our calm voices. If he needs to listen, and we've asked for a certain behavior or action several times, a more stern voice will definitely get his attention. I'm not sure if this would have worked as well if we hadn't calmed down considerably before. I think he understands now that there are times when he absolutely has to listen, like when he's playing out front or walking through a parking lot.
I know this balance will shift several times as he grows older. I just hope we can keep up!