Ocean and Iris are at a strange discipline-transitional phase where time outs are no longer effective. Ocean just pretends he's in a rocket ship and Iris lays on her back and belts out show tunes until the timer beeps. When I ask why they're in time out they make something up just to get out of it. It's like a police interrogation gone horribly awry. Yeah yeah yeah I tripped someone or threw my food or kicked the dog we don't have just get me the crap out of this cold, dark foyer so I can get back to the very important business of ripping up three rolls of toilet paper like a hamster and stuffing microscopic pieces of it into every nook and cranny in the entire house, thankyouverymuch.
At the suggestion of several friends I've now employed the rather effective technique of taking away something of importance for a certain amount of time, based on the offense. You grab something out of her hand? Oops, there goes your Spiderman. You scream in his face? Sorry, Ducky goes bye bye for a few hours. Toy is removed. Behavior is corrected with a conversation. Toy is returned within 24 hours. It works beautifully for my kids.
Normally all three kids are quite well-behaved in public. I always like to anticipate potential blow-ups before they happen-- I know their limits and eating/sleeping patterns and stressors and hot buttons and reactions to changes in barometric pressure. Like if it's 3:08pm on the first Monday of the month, we had cheese for a snack and it's rained for the last three days, we can stay at the mall for approximately 1.5 hours before Iris loses her mind and goes crawling on all fours like a "syterapots" (triceratops) through Macy's with her underwear on her head. This is the kind of deductive reasoning we do here.
The other day, though, I found myself out with three rather unruly children and not one beloved object between them to use as a disciplinary tactic. Ocean and Iris both had more than one stern talkin'-to about running away from me so close to the street and then they started that awesome I'm in your face but I'm not touching yoooooouuuuuuuuu nonsense that's been infuriating parents since the beginning of time. Flustered by Ruby's screaming and the older kids' racing around in circles while simultaneously whining and poking at each other I did what we, as mothers, try to never do. I spoke before I knew what I was going to say.
What I meant to do was communicate a concise, "If X, then Y" scenario in which the kids would get the message that there would be an immediate consequence for any further disobedience. What happened instead (and I blame, once again, the stress hormones released by the screams of the baby and the low blood sugar from not having had a snack and what the heck let's go ahead and blame the barometer as well) was that I said this:
"Ocean! You-- stop it. Stop it now. In fact, you have lost... uh, standing.... privileges. You no longer have the... privilege... of standing. You must sit down. Now. Sit."
And Ocean and Iris both looked at me like I'd lost my damn mind. Because I had. But Ocean sat down with kind of a little smile like he was going to humor me even though I clearly had no earthly idea what just came out of my mouth and I took my own time out before packing all of us up and heading home.
Where we had a nice snack and then a nap.