Go to Your Room

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

October 3, 2010


Categories: Family, Parenting

We are a blended family. That is, my mother remarried when I was 9 years old, and with that marriage we earned a father (yea, since my dad was MIA), a sister, and a brother. That means, our small family of 4 (mom, sister, brother, me) became a family of SEVEN! We had enough for a starting line up for a basketball team, plenty for 3 on 3, and the infield of a baseball game. It was amazing. Now,  I was a part of a large family, naturally, since that’s what the Maternal side is all about. My grandmother had 10 children, many of whom had more than 3 children themselves. Yes, I have more than 40 cousins on one side.

There are many neat things about having a big family. There are many neat things about getting a new, involved dad. But, then, when you’re growing up, there is the downside – the discipline factor.

I was a very angry kid. There were things that affected my childhood that I am still not over, to this day. Biological father leaving when I was five has left a scar that will never be fully healed, no matter the relationship I have with him now. As a child, it contributed a lot to my anger, loneliness, and frustrations that I felt. When I entered the  (pre)teen years, I became even more irritable. I would act out, lash out, be belligerent, and just plain rude – to my mother. So much so, that I dread Levi become a teen and all that teenage angst that comes with it. I suffered it. I’m sure my husband did, and I’m not looking for the “turn about is fair play”.

So, how do you deal with a belligerent teenager? I was grounded a fair amount, but one thing my step-father did has stuck with me to this day. When I would back talk to my mother, he would firmly grab my arm. He would instruct me that I do not talk to my mother like that. And, I was to go to my room until I cooled off.

When I was first sent to my room, I think I was there for hours. I don’t remember very clearly. What I do remember is getting bored. I remember learning, from this, to take a breath, step back, to clear my head. I’ve learned as an adult to better articulate my feelings. Those lessons were good to get me to calm down. I used to brag in high school that I would never hold a grudge – just give me 15 minutes and I’ll be over “it”, whatever it was for the time.

Now, I am a parent. Now, I have a child who I send to his room.

Levi was 18 months old. He started a temper tantrum. It was instinctual at that point. I simply said, “Go to your room until you calm down.” He didn’t. So, I walked him to his room. Sure, we’ve done time outs since he was 9 months old. Again, taking solace in Jo Frost‘s methods, and utilizing the one minute per age guideline. But, there are some things I don’t want in our kitchen (our time out space) – and that is hollering and caring on.

“Go to your room” was popular with my husband too. He has described every other place in our house, specifically the living room, the “Happy Zone.” The idea is, Levi is upset, cannot gain control of his emotions, he is sent to his room until he can gain control of his emotions, and then he is allowed to come out. Sometimes we shut the door, but not always. Sometimes he shuts it! He has his animals in there, so he can cuddle with his Rabbit if need be.

The first few times, he was in there close to a half hour. Our home is small, so we can hear everything that goes on, but we would and will check on him to ensure everything is okay. If he is really upset, I often check on him after the initial fit has calmed. Progressively, his time in the room has shortened. Usually, he comes out now and says, “I’m all better now.” We’ll talk about or try to talk about what was going on. I’m hoping Levi will tell me what prompted the fit.

The other day, I said, “Okay, time for bed.” He had been warned beginning 30 minutes prior. The last warning was the 5 minute warning. He was coloring on the floor with his new markers and coloring book. He started screaming when I said the 5 minute was up. So, as we sometimes do, I picked him up over my shoulder, like a sack of potatoes, and brought him to his room. I set him down, gave him a hug, and asked him what was going on. He said, “But! I still want to draw!!” Finally! Levi told me what was going on! I thanked him for telling me, and told him he could draw for 5 more minutes after we got him ready for bed. And he did. And bedtime was fine.

After 2 years of being sent to his room. Almost 3 years of time outs, Levi is now beginning to articulate how he feels. I know that’s what attachment parenting aims for – we have done it in a different way and yet have achieved the same or similar results. This too gives me solace that we are doing at least what’s right for our family.

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