Monday, November 5, 2007

Charlie and Time Out

Poor little Charlie. He has had such a hard time learning to behave. Yesterday someone asked him how old he was and he replied "15".

Yes, 5 going on 15!

His Kindergarten teacher is amazed at how smart he is, but because he talks incessently and likes to be the class clown, he comes home every day with a Red Face. We told him that when he came home with a Green Face for behaving well, we would celebrate. Last week he got 2 green faces!!

After months of trying every form of punishment we could think of, Charlie's counselor gave us a few hints on Time Out. There had been weekends at our house when he was in Time Out more than not, but the new methods seem to be working better.

Last night I sat in the yard swing with Annie and Charlie came along with a worm to tease Annie with. I asked Charlie if that was a nice thing or a mean thing, and he agreed that it was mean. I didn't have the timer handy for Time Out, so I let him go back to his play.

About 10 minutes later, Charlie came back and handed me the timer.

"What is this for?" I asked him.

"Because I teased Annie with the worm," he replied.

"So you think you need Time Out?" I asked him.

"Yes" he said, quite seriously.

"OK then, sit on that bench" I told him as I set the timer.

He sat there quietly until the timer rang, and as I sat there continuing my conversation with Annie, I couldn't believe what had just transpired.

Prior to the new Time Out techniques, we would send Charlie to a place in the hall, where he would sit until we let him up. We did not have a set amount of time, and when he got up we would talk to him about what he had done wrong. When we asked "what did you do wrong", he would tell us. When we asked "what should you have done", he would tell us. He knew what was right, he just couldn't make himself do it. Then we would give hugs and send him off to apologize and give hugs to whomever he had offended.

The counselor suggested that we send him to Time Out without talking about what he did wrong - he knew exactly what he had done wrong. Then we set timer - one of those old fashioned kind that you can hear ticking - for 5 minutes (one minute of each year of age).

If he fusses or messes around, we say "because you are not sitting quietly, I have to start the time over", and we set the timer back to 5 minutes. When the timer rings, he knows he can get up and go again.

Now, the counselor warned us that at first he would resist the new procedures, and boy was she right! Such simple little changes threw a wrench into his plan. He knew he would no longer get the hugs and extended attention that discussing what he had done wrong would bring. For the first couple of weeks he fussed and messed around, something he had not done previously.

After a couple of weeks he adjusted to the new routine, although he occasionally finds something to play with and suffers the consequences of having the timer re-started.

We really appreciate Charlie's Kindergarten teacher. She is patiently working with him and with us as we work on Charlie's behavior. All his little life has been nothing but trauma, but with the help of his teachers and counselors, a stable home environment and the love and affection of so many people, Charlie is coming around.

A couple of weeks ago, when Charlie came home with yet another Red Face, Randy asked him what he had done.

"They were doing numbers, and I already know my numbers," Charlie said. Yes, there may be times that he is a little ahead of the other kids in his class. But, he has to learn to control himself. If he does not learn now, it will be harder to learn as he grows older.

Charlie is so smart that he will be able to do anything he sets his mind to. If he can learn self-control now, he will have a much brighter future.

Thank you, Miss Catherine, for being another Angel to Charlie!