Papa, yoooou in timeout!

Listening to my children is very important, especially when it is time for me to go to timeout.  I’m not sure when it was within the last several months, but my youngest didn’t break eye contact when she looked up at me and said, “Papa, yooooou in timeout!”  “Me?” I thought and asked, “What did I do?” with a grin followed by some hugs with, “Oh, you are angry with Papa, aren’t you?”  She confirmed, “Yes – Yooooou in timeout!  I’m angry.”

I love the fact that my two daughters, especially the youngest, can express themselves (It isn’t in the genes and takes a lot of reinforcement to get here).  When she sent me to time out, rather than get stuck in a battle, I changed course and we took some time out together to chat.  It took about thirty seconds for my little one to say she didn’t like sitting alone.  Thus, a new plan was needed.  From that little chat, I adopted and modified the successful system, Positive Parenting with a Plan (, taught by Matthew A. Johnson (I came to know of this system through a seminar I attended).

While the system is designed for an age group beyond the ages of own children (ages three and six), creative modification resulted in great success.  For example, instead of “reward cards” (cited in the book, Positive Parenting with a Plan (Grades K-12): F.A.M.I.L.Y. Rules), I use "tokens" purchased from the local education store (e.g.,  And, each child has her own Tupperware (approximately 3.5" x 3.5"), which each decorated to include smiley faces and flowers, etc. There is a third Tupperware with a sad face on it (which I took the liberty to draw myself).  From there, I use a modified counting method of another author, Dr. Thomas Phelan of Yellow-1, Yellow-2 and Yellow-3 as warnings.  The levy of a “fine” can happen on either Yellow-1, Yellow-2 or Yellow-3, thus capitalizing on the children not being able to predict the outcome, i.e., Will a fine happen on Yellow-1 or Yellow-3…. Do you feel lucky (insert your best impression of Clint Eastwood here without the ‘Punk’ part)? I use this “Yellow-1” method so my children are NOT traumatized through life whenever they hear anyone counting, or playing a game, as in Hide-and-Seek, or when they are adult business owners and counting the day’s receipts, 1 – 2 – 3 – etc.  I wanted the counting to be so unique, they would likely not hear it again anywhere else and thus be free to enjoy numbers in any other situation.

The children earn tokens for things they do on their own, getting dressed fully (one token for socks, shoes, etc.). So, my three year old will likely cash in on 4-5 tokens before school.  Also, she earns one token and much praise for going to the potty on her own spontaneously.  More often times than not, I hear, “Papa, guess what? I went to the potty without telling you!”  I always give praise, and sometimes a token, unless that is our specific agreement.  For every 10 tokens, they earn a trip with Papa to yogurt, ice cream or the store to purchase of a coloring book, etc.  For infractions, one or more tokens is (are) required to go back into the sad face Tupperware.  When the infractions get personal, i.e. an attack from the upper bunk bed to the victim down below, then "I'm sorry" with handing one or more tokens over to the victim, which cures a lot of tears and results in big smiles (Of course, we insert, “Do you forgive me?” and “Yes, I do” followed by encouragement toward hugs depending on the severity of the transgression).

Who would of thought that listening to my three year old would result in constructing a plan to “shape” (I prefer this term over “discipline”) their behavior in positive ways?  The children find great pleasure in counting how many tokens they each have, and by happenstance there is one gold token that made its way into the mix, which is very much sought after).  After implementation of this plan, there has been about 1 to 3 timeouts (due to my learning curve).

That’s my story and I’m stick’n to it.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have some tokens handout.


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