Monday, November 24, 2014

The Definition of Insanity

Regular readers of this space might remember an occasion in which I gleefully proclaimed parenting success via the use of timeouts.

If we keep trying timeouts, they'll eventually succeed, right? 
Yes, readers might remember I said this — because it’s the last post I wrote. (There it is. Right below this one. It was three days ago. Ugggh.)

And while you might see the last post as just another entry on another blog, I see it as proof that, when it comes to parenting, no presumed victory goes unpunished without a thoroughly humbling defeat.

Yes, it turns out I might have been a bit hasty in deeming the timeout strategy a victory for us.

After all, can one consider it a victory if you’re putting the kid in timeout multiple times in the same hour?

And how much of a victory is it if, ten minutes after a timeout, you have to tell your kid again that: “We don’t hit”?

Further, how much of a victory is it if your kid then looks you dead in the eye and proceeds to test for himself the veracity of this declaration.

With no words and just a steely, Clint Eastwood-esque glint in his eyes, he says to you: “We don’t hit? Really Dad? Then what’s this that I’m about to do with my right hand?” 

Slap.

“Interesting, that looked like a hit to me, Dad.”

All that was missing was a toothpick between his clenched teeth, and a request for me to go ahead and make his day.

Being the learned people we are, Mrs. Blackwell and I are well aware that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. So, we’ve changed timeout.

First, we've changed locations. Instead of the family room, he now he sits in a corner in his own little chair. Too bad too, because we had this cute little dining set for him complete with pint-sized table and chairs. Now it’s become the “timeout set.” 

Just as important, we’ve extended the duration of the time out.

For his part the boy takes the punishment well — maybe a little too well. In fact, he doesn’t seem fazed by the solitude. He just sits there quietly and coolly does his time — no fuss, no muss.

Like McQueen, the boy has a taste for solitude.
Really, he’s just one bouncy ball away from being Steve McQueen in the ‘Great Escape.’

It’s too early to say whether any of these adjustments are having the desired effect and, frankly, the last few days have taught me just how foolhardy it is to make any such determination.

We know we can't abandon timeouts yet — something about that would feel like a defeat and, let's face it, this entire ordeal is as much about fueling my empty pride as it doing the right thing for the boy's development. 

But thinking about that insanity definition, when does one realize that the tires are spinning in place and it's time for a change in strategy? I'd rather not wait for the boy to develop a healthy jab-cross-hook-uppercut combo to find out. 

For now, we wait and wait and wait — all to determine if we're going to have to take a timeout from timeouts. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now a senior, I still remember the time outs at my Grandmother's house. Time out, then simply referred to as "standing in the corner", was a punishment I received frequently. I still remember hating it. It must have been effective because look how nicely I turned out. Ha! Ha! - Your Mother.

Blackwell said...


So, it's a family tradition? Good to know that the lineage of this practice goes back four generations. Thanks Mom.