Time for Timeouts: Finding My Footing During COVID-19

I think every parent has an idea in their head of whether or not they’re a “good” parent.

I definitely felt like I was a pretty good mom and that I was doing the best job I could. However, in the past couple of days, I have seen my entire family’s dynamic change so much, and it’s all because of one thing that I did. 

Let me start by saying with my first child, I don’t think I ever had to be very firm with her. She was a very easygoing toddler and generally did everything I asked her to. Her little brother, on the other hand, has needed some boundaries set for a while now. I’ve let him become used to throwing things wherever he wanted, screaming really loudly for no real reason, and crumpling up his snack, making huge messes for me to clean up. 

The entire time we have been stuck at home I just accepted his behavior and didn’t really do much to put a stop to it. I was caught up in my own feelings of feeling sorry for my children that they had to be home all the time. But then I realized his behavior wasn’t just affecting me. His grandparents were struggling to get him to listen to them too, and my husband was growing increasingly frustrated at the situation.

I realized I needed to step up and be the mom that my son needed me to be. 

Time for Timeouts: Finding My Footing During COVID-19I constantly read parenting books, watch reality shows about parenting (Supernanny, anyone?), and take in as much advice as I possibly can regarding parenting in order to figure out what things I should be doing in my own family.

One idea that circulated in my head for a while was the idea of timeouts. I knew they would be very short (2 minutes for his age) and I had a feeling they might help him realize that he wasn’t exactly the boss of the house. I was so nervous about starting this with him and for a few days, I was too chicken to try it.

But then the perfect opportunity came up. 

My son was doing something he always does: crumpling up his crackers and making a giant mess. I knew what I needed to do. I told him, “You need to stop making a mess. If you don’t stop, I’m going to put you in a timeout and you’ll be sitting in the corner for two minutes”. 

He just kind of smiled at me and didn’t really think I was going to do it. (This just made me feel more sure that this is exactly what he needed.) He continued to make a mess, and so I took him from his seat and set him in the corner in the kitchen. 

The way this timeout went down was absolutely incredible.

Isaac tried once to walk away from his spot, but I just sat him back down and said “2 minutes”. After that, he got the message and stayed there! I made sure to stay in the other room with my back turned to him while this was going on. He could still see me but I wasn’t paying any attention to him. He cried a little at first, but to my surprise, he was not crying the entire two minutes. A good portion of this time was actually silent.

The two-minute timer went off, and I was so proud of Isaac for doing the timeout. I sat down on the ground next to him and gave him a big hug. I quietly said to him,” Next time when Mommy asks you to stop, you need to listen the first time. Can you say ‘sorry’ to Mommy for not listening?” What he did next melted my heart.

He leaned into me and gave me the biggest hug with the saddest (but cutest) look on his face. I knew that he had learned a lesson. 

I can’t believe I was ever so nervous to try this.

This caused a real change in my son. He is so much more self-regulating and less dependent on me. For the first time ever, after his time out, he sat at our kitchen table and colored for 30-45 minutes straight. I was struck by how calm he was. Just feeling those boundaries set made him feel so much more secure, and I am so incredibly thankful I worked up the courage to try this.

I hope my story can help other moms who have been afraid to try timeouts.

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Samantha is a stay-at-home mom to Lily and Isaac. She is originally from San Antonio, Texas but moved to Iowa when she started attending the University of Northern Iowa. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Special Education, and loves the opportunity to mentor other parents in the special needs community. She enjoys knitting, reading, and baking in her free time.