I have a spirited child.
That’s not to say that she is “bad” or misbehaves a lot, but rather she doesn’t always respond to my attempts to correct her behavior. Quite simply, she has a knack for tuning me out. 😉
During one of these situations (where my daughter was completely ignoring my request to stop doing whatever she was doing), my friend and I started chatting about my need to find her kryptonite to discipline her effectively. And that’s how this crazy, out of the box idea was born- the “stufty” time out!
My child, like many little girls these days, is completely addicted to the small, “big eye” stuffed animals. They are adorable, and she has a ton of them. Each of them has a name, a personality and they take turns going with her to school and on family outings. These “stufties,” as she calls them, are very real to her. She is very protective of them and loves them deeply.
Recently I noticed that our go-to discipline of time out was not working very well, because she would just continue the undesirable behavior despite being told time out was imminent. She didn’t seem to care when it was just her getting punished. In fact, when she did go to time out she would refuse to come out. I could hear her thinking, “There! That will show you parents! I’m still in charge of my punishment! HA!”
But now it’s not just about her. Her stufty faces a consequence for her actions. And that is the game-changer for my daughter.
Here’s how the “stufty” time-out works in our house:
I always count to three, to give her a chance to self-correct the behavior. If she doesn’t do it by the time I reach 3, I take the stufty that is accompanying us for the day and I put him/her into stufty time out. My daughter goes into time out as well. They are near each other, but they must face different directions. She is 8, so she and the stufty must stay in time-out for 8 minutes. If we are in public, we find a bench and the two of them sit on opposite sides of the bench to serve their time out.
Since my spirited child is so passionate about her stufties, this really bugs her! She has told me that her stufties aren’t 8 years old, so they shouldn’t stay in such a long time out. I’ve also heard that they are sad because they didn’t do anything but they are getting punished. To both of these statements my reply has been, “You are correct!” And you can literally see the light turning on as she says these things.
I still prefer positive reinforcement to negative or consequence-based punishments. In fact, we still use the reward chart which is posted on our dining room wall so she can earn weekly prizes. But my child is more of an “instant gratification” kind of kid, so that isn’t working out so well these days. We also tried a prize box, to appease her need for an instant reward. The problem is she has expensive tastes, and wants big rewards daily. Naturally, that’s just not possible.
The beauty of the stufty time out is its simplicity, and the fact that it is a strong deterrent to behavior that leads to time-out in the first place. Since we have implemented the stufty time out a month ago, we have only had to use it twice. I merely count, mention the possibility of a stufty time out, and she instantly stops what she is doing and corrects her behavior. So simple, yet so effective!
I wonder if this will still work when she is a teenager? There’s no harm in dreaming…right? 🙂