|My nephew and the dog that started the story below, Keona. Notice how actually happy Keona is here. His tail was wagging so much, it appears blurry because the camera didn't have a fast enough shutter speed to click it in mid-wag.|
It's late and I should probably just go to bed. I had curriculum nights for both of my kids tonight at their school and then ended up talking to a friend in the parking lot until way too much time had passed. I had to check and respond to emails from my students, but I really wanted to blog about my nephew's perfect bedroom time incident today.
We were cleaning at a house today with these two big dogs. We love these dogs! The one in the photograph with my nephew is Keona; he is a Great White Pyrenees/Australian Shepherd mix. The other is a huge, pure-bred Great White Pyrenees named Cooper. Both are sweet and generally good with the kids. My nephew can be a little rough on the dogs at housecleaning houses, my house, and even his own house. He isn't mean, just overly exuberant at times.
Last week we got a dog at a housecleaning house a little over excited, and I could see that he was about to jump up on my nephew, which would have caused a bruise down his face and body. So I quickly gathered up my nephew and took the jump up on my own leg, making a bruise from my underwear line to my knee. Again the dog wasn't try to be a bad dog; he just wanted to play and didn't know his size and strength in comparison to a three year old boy.
Today I had already given him a warning at my house when he was squeezing one of our dog's heads a little too much with love. Then at the housecleaning house, I had asked my nephew to be gentle with the dogs. This particular house has a giant bean bag chair that sits lower than the raised couch in their home theater area. The kids enjoy jumping off the couch and onto this bean bag chair. Keona, the dog, also likes the bean bag chair and decided to lie down right in the middle of it. I told my nephew not to jump onto the bean bag chair when the dog was on there. Of course, the next minute, he did it anyway. Keona kind of jumped up and looked like he was going to start playing with my nephew, but more in the line of bring it on rather than a little playfulness. I said sternly and a little loudly, but not a true yell, "No!"
I meant NO to both of them. I made Keona get down and go to another area of the house. My nephew was cowering on the couch and acting as if I had screamed bloody murder at him. I picked him up and explained that I only wanted him to be safe and to be gentle with animals. I asked him to look at my huge bruise and asked if he thought he might want one of these because if he plays rough with the dogs, they will play rough with him, and he could get hurt. I told him I needed him to say, "OK Aha, (That's his name for me. It stands for Auntie Heather.) I will be sweet with the dogs."
He said nothing.
I said, "Oh that's sad because I really need to know that you understand this is important. How about if you have some bedroom time until you can tell me you will be sweet with the dogs?"
Then I carried him all the way from the basement up to the fourth level (this is a tri-level house with a basement.), and placed him on the bed in the master bedroom. I said, "You can come down when you can tell me you will be sweet with the dogs."
Then I walked out of the room, went to the family room area and began vacuuming. I got about halfway through the room, which took about five minutes, when I heard, "Aha, Aha!"
I turned off the vacuum, and my nephew was standing on the stairs. He said, "I am ready to be sweet to the dogs now."
I scooped him up and asked, "How does that make you feel?"
In the tiniest voice, he said, "Good." Then he buried his face in my shoulder.
After that there were no more dog roughness problems.
This is just a classic example of how bedroom time works when it works like it is supposed to work. You have to know that it doesn't always go this smoothly, especially when you first start using it. Also the age of the child can have an impact on how well this works. When I first started doing it, my daughter was seven. One of the first times I did it, she just kept coming out of her room and staring at me and her brother. Fred said, "What's wrong with Hannah?"
I said, "Oh she needs some time in her bedroom to get sweet. She is having some trouble with her temper."
The next time she came out staring us down with what would have been lasers from her eyes if she could have figured out how to actually shoot lasers from her eyes, Fred looked from her to me and said, "I don't think she's sweet, yet!"
It took several times of just calmly putting her back in and closing the door and leaving her there until she decided she was sweet before it worked. Now she often self-imposes some bedroom time and will come out only when she is ready to be sweet.
The experts, Jim and Charles Fay and Foster Cline, say it should not ever be a timed thing because if you use it as a "time out" and you set a timer, the kids will only be clock watching versus internalizing the reason for being separated in the first place. Bedroom time should be used for the child to be separated and then to get sweet before coming back out. They use the word, "sweet," because that is the desired behavior they want for the kids to come out exhibiting. Believe me there have been many times when I have said, "I see you back out, but I am not feeling the sweet. See you when you are sweet." They may stomp off and be mad that I am sending them back, but they always go and eventually they come out sweet.
My sister would tell you that my nephew has not always exhibited this perfect bedroom time behavior either. There have been times when she almost had to physically hold him to the bed in order to get him to stay in there, or close the door and then sit right outside so that each time he opened the door to come out he could not get past her. The key is that they have to actually be sweet, and they have to stay there until the sweet attitude is apparent, or they must be returned.
If you are consistent with this technique, you will find that the child will eventually internalize what you want for them to learn or do, and that they even sometimes send themselves away to get sweet. Consistency is the key! The Love and Logic guys say it is like making your words become like gold. The follow through and the calmness with which you carry all of this out, will make it so that eventually it will go as smoothly as it did for my nephew and for me today.