Three year olds. Aren’t they grand?

Okay, so mine’s a few weeks short of officially becoming a three-nager. But that doesn’t really mean much to her. In the last three months, my once-perfect two-year-old cherub has magically transformed into a fire-breathing, angry little dragon who’s on the verge of meltdown at any given moment.

[Side note: My mother recently informed me that this is something called “payback.” I know not of what she speaks. ]

Lately, the little fascist has declared a violent dictatorship over my family. A coup if you will. Yep, friends, I’ve got a hitter on my hands.

Thankfully, my BFF just so happens to have a bonafide PhD in child psychology. Not only does she make for an incredible babysitter, but she’s a treasure trove of advice on how to make behavioral changes with my littles.

All that said, Time Outs have become a big part of my life. I’m not the corporal punishment type and my ability to exclusively use positive reinforcement was for naught. So, my doctor-of-a-best-friend has been coaching me on how to perform an effective Time Out.

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m terrible at Time Outs. Just awful. My friend/doctor is helping me to get better, but has informed me that my daughter is as they say, “strong willed.” I don’t know about that. What I do know is that nobody warned me for this stage. Nobody. Henceforth, I’m losing my marbles over here.

How to Handle a Time Out in 40 Steps

  1. After receiving several blows to the abdomen on account of turning off an episode of Doc McStuffins, inform the toddler that she’s going to Time Out.
  2. WWE-style wrestle the now combative toddler to the designated Time Out location.
  3. Set timer (one minute for every year of her age).
  4. Pray for silence. Realize you haven’t been to church in weeks and, because of that, your prayer probably won’t work. [Make mental note: Go to church on Sunday.]
  5. Listen to child kick the wall in designated Time Out location.
  6. Try to suppress the knowledge that she’s leaving black scuffmarks on the wall in the dining room. [Serenity now. Serenity now.]
  7. Ignore incessant pleas: “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommmmmyyy?
  8. Because you are making a conscious effort to not give the child any attention whatsoever, it is only through the corner of your eye that you see the child dart to the other room.
  9. Dodge karate kicks and jiu-jitsu punches to move child back to designated Time Out location – all whilst avoiding eye contact or verbal communication.
  10. Reset the timer.
  11. Close your eyes and remember that one time your inebriated college roommate got kicked out of a club much the same way you just “bounced” the toddler back into Time Out. [Chuckle to yourself.] Try not to remember what size jeans you wore in college. [Make mental note: Go to gym tomorrow morning.]
  12. Listen to the toddler begin to pull on the drapes in the designated Time Out location.
  13. Try to ignore that little voice inside of you saying, “If she pulls too hard, there’s a good chance she’ll rip the drapes right off the wall.”
  14. Jump at the sound of the drapes being ripped right off the wall and falling down upon the child with a rather ferocious thump.
  15. Quickly envision child being seriously injured. Experience nearly immediate and horrifying guilt.
  16. Cheetah run to the toddler who is now crying under a heap of drapes and a broken curtain rod.
  17. Realize the toddler is fine and just a little freaked out.
  18. Remove blinds. Place the toddler back in the designated Time Out location.
  19. Reset timer.
  20. Wonder if perhaps you’re being a bit too harsh. Perhaps she didn’t realize that hitting is not ok (even if it was the 10,000th time she’s been in Time Out for hitting).
  21. Envision her growing up to be the next Ronda Rousey on account of her love affair with hitting. Or, oh no, maybe she’ll be a criminal. (Make mental note: Definitely go to church on Sunday.]
  22. Wonder if MMA fighters make fortunes that they could conceivably share with their aging parents. [Make mental note: Check 401k.]
  23. Because you are making a conscious effort to not give the child any attention whatsoever, it is only through the corner of your eye that you see the child dart to the other room…again.
  24. Pick up child – who has actively become a lifeless pile of dead weight – and place back in designated Time Out location – all whilst avoiding eye contact or verbal communication.
  25. Reset timer.
  26. Hear child whining: “I want Daddy. I don’t like you. Where’s Daddy? I want Daddy!!!”
  27. Try not to remember that it was you – not Daddy – who gave up her career for the toddler.
  28. Reheat your coffee in the microwave for the third time today. Forget about it moments later.
  29. Begin speculating that Time Out might just be the biggest and most pointless waste of everyone’s time.
  30. Timer goes off. [Finally! We made it!]
  31. Approach the toddler in designated Time Out location at her level.
  32. Ask her if she knows why she was in Time Out.
  33. Child has no idea. Subdue feelings of exasperation. [Really, kid? You have no idea what was going on here????]
  34. Explain to child why she was in Time Out. “Hitting is not ok. Do you understand that?”
  35. With ridiculously big, puppy-dog eyes and in the saddest voice ever, the child mumbles, “I’m sorry I hit you, Mommy. I love you.”
  36. Realize that she’s the sweetest kid in the entire universe and that you’re the worst mom in the world for subjecting her to Time Out. [What’s wrong with you?]
  37. Engage in a big, long wonderful hug. [Make mental note: Stop putting this perfect angel into Time Out.]
  38. Think to yourself: “Maybe I’m not failing miserably at this parenting stuff after all. I’m at expert level!”
  39. Watch the toddler hit her sister.
  40. Rinse and repeat.