Time Out – Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I picked my son up from his transitional kindergarten class today only to find him not sitting with the other kids while enjoying story time but instead sitting by himself in a blue chair. Miss Pat announced, “Joey, your excused.” and when I looked up from the sign out sheet it is then that I really noticed that he hadn’t been seated on the carpet with everyone else but was off to the side in the chair. He slowly walked up to me and began taking things out of his cubby. I knelt down and asked him quietly, “We’re you in a time out?”. His response was to slowly hang his head down, nodding slightly. I again whispered, “How come you got a time out?”. He looked around to make sure nobody was listening to our conversation and noticed Miss Jenn was tuning in to our conversation. He replied noncommitingly with a “I don’t remember”, and again hung his head. I could tell he was embarrassed but what was I to do – let it go or address it? Here or at home? Miss Jenn took the decision out of my hands by casually walking over and whispering to me that he had a case of the wiggles during story time and since he couldn’t seem to stop himself they felt it was best to remove him from the situation. I totally understand their response and support it. This is an area that we’ve been working on at home when we do story time in the evening.

timeoutI asked Joey to get his coat and off we went to get into our truck. On the way, I took his hand and told him I loved him as I always do and then asked him why he had the wiggles. He apparently didn’t know but was quick to add that his buddy Alex had them too and that he had to sit in a chair also. I missed that since Alex had already been picked up when I arrived. Again I asked why and reiterated what the rules were during story time, that you were to sit still and listen, that if you had a question you could ask it but had to wait til the teacher or Mommy and Daddy said okay. He then admitted that he had too much energy and just couldn’t sit still. I told him that wasn’t acceptable as he was old enough to know what was expected of him and to not disrupt his whole class by causing mischief. He asked me, “Momma what’s mischief?”. I had to hold back my laugh – always full of questions even when he was in the middle of being in trouble. I explained it was getting into trouble or doing something you shouldn’t be doing at that specific time, that everything you do has a proper time and place and fooling around during story time wasn’t either of those. I then told him as I was buckling him in to the car seat that he would have to tell his teachers tomorrow that he was sorry for disrupting the class and that he would try to do better at listening.

You’d have thought I’d told him I was taking away his toys, or TV time, or that he just lost his puppy by the tears that began rolling down his face. I got in the car and asked why he was crying and tried to soothe him. He didn’t want to say sorry, he got shy when he had to do something like that, he didn’t want to remind his teachers that he’d been bad, etc., etc. I told him I’m sorry he felt that way but he still had to take responsibility for his actions and would have to apologize to them. As I looked into the rear view mirror and saw his big crocodile tears I almost caved in but then stopped myself. This was a lesson I had to learn to – I couldn’t always let him off the hook even if it did make him sad. He bent over at the waist and continued to cry, his little shoulders shaking. I asked him to tell me why he was so upset, to which he ignored me at first and then when I followed up with the fact that it’s rude to ignore someone when they’ve asked you a question he told me he just couldn’t talk about it right now that he needed a little quiet time. I looked him in the eye in the mirror and told him that was okay, that when he was ready we could talk about it. He continued to cry and my heart continued to break for him. He slowly uttered that he didn’t want to have to apologize in front of the whole class. I told him we could go in a little earlier. He responded with that they would still be mad at him for not listening. I had to call him on that and said that they understood all to well that he was learning, that everyone makes mistakes the important part was to learn from them, and that I knew in my heart that they would accept his apology. “What if I can’t say it tomorrow Mom?” he asked in all sincerity. I relented and told him he had two options, he could either tell them in person tomorrow or he could write them a note. He could tell me what he wanted to say and I’d write it out in highlighter for him to trace. He asked if he could draw a picture too and that just brought a smile to my face. He was coming around. Of course I said sure he could.

We got home and he was still upset, more embarrassed than anything I think as he hates to let anyone down, and was still having tears on and off. He immediately crawled under his covers and continued to have his moment. I crawled onto his bed with him and held him and told him again that I loved him. He asked for some alone time and so I honored his request. After a while he calmed down and told me what he wanted to write to his teachers. Together we picked a picture of a frog out of one of his coloring books (his class are called the Faithful Frogs) and I wrote, “Miss Pat and Miss Jenn, I’m sorry and I’ll try to listen better. Joey”. I was proud of him for his follow through and I think that we both learned a lesson or two today.

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