I Not Be Nice: Time-Out and the Five Stages of Grief

The baby of our family may be the youngest, but she will tell you in no uncertain terms that she is NOT a baby!  She is animated, creative, determined, energetic, directive, intelligent, imaginative, persistent, mischievous, curious, fiercely independent, and downright hilarious most of the time.  She doesn’t know what all those words mean yet, but when she describes herself, she says, “I strong.”  That pretty much sums it up.
Paris Alexandra has a twinkle in her eye that sparkles brightest when she’s just stolen a cherished possession from one of her twin brothers, and she’s speeding away from the scene of the crime with one of them running behind her screaming.  She has only two settings on her gas pedal: full blast and dead stop. She loves to be tickled, give kisses, and play with dinosaurs. She has no problem saying whatever she wants to say, and she does just that – nonstop.  I have to bribe her to get her to wear anything besides her ‘punzel (Rapunzel) nightgowns, and she always picks Blaze and the Monster Machines when she gets to choose the TV show.
The kid is serious about eating.  She carries around a giant lunchbox for a purse, and her absolute favorite food is Greek yogurt.  Paris has no fear and few inhibitions, and she absolutely despises time-out.  So, when she got plopped down in a chair to sit until she could be nice to her brothers and heed my instructions, her flair for the dramatic was on full display as she grieved deeply (and loudly) over her very brief but completely devastating loss of privileges.
Psychologists often refer to five stages of grief that are common to people who have experienced loss, and I think my two-year-old went through all of them when she “lost” her freedom in her recent five-minute stretch in the slammer.
Denial – She kept saying, “I NOT be nice!”

Anger – One of her favorite sayings we’ve been working to eliminate from her vocabulary made a ferocious comeback: “I’m mad!!!” she huffed, over and over, with her little arms crossed and her brow knitted in frustration.

Bargaining – When I ignored the tantrum-like behavior (heroically fighting hysterical laughter prompted by her antics) and calmly reminded her that her time-out could begin when she stopped screaming, the muscles in her face magically relaxed, and she smiled ever so sweetly and said, “I love you so much, Mommy!”

Depression – When that didn’t work, she changed gears in an instant and fell into the depths of despair wailing, “I want my daddy!”  Clearly, she thought a Prince Charming-style rescue would be required.  (How could she know that her evil mommy had already effected a rescue by breaking up the fight that would have ended in her being clocked in the face by one of her brothers, who, by the way, she cannot tell apart, so she calls them both “Riley.”)

Acceptance – She must have finally decided her fate was sealed, and that I wasn’t going to relent until she sat there for a few minutes without screaming, because the smile made another appearance and she finally told me, “I be nice, Mommy.”

As luck would have it, just as the timer on my phone sounded, Prince Charming did in fact waltz through the door and swooped his littlest princess up in a big daddy hug, oblivious to the fact that he had just claimed full credit for a magical rescue!

Paris and I will likely share at least a few more time out experiences, but that’s OK.  My world most certainly would not be complete without this little angel whose halo is held up by her horns!  Every day brings a new adventure and every minute a new reason to laugh!

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