Photo by: Mary Widdicks

Giving Time-Outs in 30 Not-So-Easy Steps

Photo by: Mary Widdicks

It seems like everywhere you look someone is trying to give you “simple” advice for how you can better yourself and your kids: 7 easy steps to a more productive you, 3 simple meals that will help you lose weight faster, 5 steps to a stress-free naptime, potty train your child in three days, or 2 simple phrases that will change your relationship forever. I mean, I love a little hyperbole as much as the next person but let’s face it, if it was that easy to be perfect wouldn’t we all be doing it?

Who are these perfect parents dolling out advice in little bit-sized morsels to the rest of us ravenous fools who just can’t seem to do anything right? I’ve never met one. Are they locked away in some super secret think tank producing step after step to lead us all into the nirvana of a simple, easy, stress-free world? When you say it like that, it starts to sound less like advice and more like a lobotomy.

Nobody’s perfect. The sooner we can all admit that to ourselves the sooner we can put a stop to the shame and competition we feel when we inevitably fail to achieve the level of flawlessness plotted out for us by countless buzzfeed articles, magazine advice columns, and pop-psychology parenting manuals. There is no right way to parent your children, only the way that works for you: the way that gets you and your children from one day to the next with everyone’s limbs and sanity intact.

Where are the 7 easy steps to being a pretty good parent? Or the 3 simple rules for raising reasonably well behaved children… sometimes? Surely these goals would be more achievable for most of us. We just have to let go of the ideal and embrace reality.

So, in the spirit of embracing reality I’m going to confess to you the ACTUAL steps I go through on a daily basis when giving my three year old a time out. I call it Giving a Time Out in 30 Not-So-Easy Steps.

1. Issue a warning- If you don’t stop wiping boogers in your brother’s hair I’m going to put you in a time out!

2. Feign shock and horror when he doesn’t listen

3. Drag whining three year old to the dreaded Time Out Chair.

4. Set timer for 3 minutes.

5. Stop timer after approximately 13 seconds because three year old is now running up and down the stairs.

6. Carry suddenly boneless three year old back to Time Out Chair

7. Reset timer.

8. Stop timer again after only 9 seconds.

9. Chase very fast three year old into kitchen.

10. Bang knee on coffee table while hauling him over your shoulder and back to The Chair

11. Reset Timer

12. Repeat steps 8-11 approximately 127 times.

13. Listen to wailing child and think smugly to yourself that you’ve won the battle.

14. Realize you haven’t seen the baby since this whole thing started.

15. Retrieve baby from his precarious perch on the back of the sofa where he is preparing to dive head first onto the tile floor.

16. Note that the wailing has stopped. Get suspicious.

17. Peek around corner to check on three year old.

18. Find only his pants remaining in the chair.

19. Search the house for your now bottomless child.

20. Find him hiding in the bathtub.

21. Praise him for his creativity and then place him back into the Time Out Chair.

22. Check watch, and realize it’s been 20 minutes since the time out began.

23. Make a cup of tea to calm your nerves.

24. Abandon tea on counter when you hear three year old giggling.

25. Stomp over to Time Out Chair and remove toy that he’s smuggled into the room.

26. Marvel at where he was hiding a giraffe on his person since he wasn’t wearing any pants.

27. Start timer…again

28. Pretend not to notice that he’s jumping up and down on the chair. At least he’s staying put.

29. Obsessively watch the seconds tick by on the timer, willing him to make it to the end this time.

30. After a minute and a half of nail-biting suspense, decide that’s close enough and end the time out before he makes you start it all over again.

It’s not perfect and it’s certainly not pretty, but it’s tried and true and works every time…eventually.

Do you have any not-so-perfect techniques for raising children? I’d love to hear about them.

Mary Widdicks is a 30-year-old mother of two boys, two male dogs, and an ever­ changing number of gender-­indeteriminate fish. Her husband calls her ‘Honey’, the three-year-old calls her ‘Mommy’, the baby calls her ‘Milk’, the dogs call her their Indentured Servant, and she’s pretty sure the fish have no idea who she is at all. She is also the writer of the humorous parenting blog You can also find her on Twitter.

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