The Parenting Game Plan

Last week I shared about the behavior changes we were seeing in Bean since Gracie’s arrival. You all gave great suggestions and ideas for how to deal with it and so did our pediatrician and my mom. So, Chris and I took all that information and started forming our own game plan for Bean Man.


Chris and I are big on game plans for parenting. Periodically, when we start to notice the needs of Bean (and, later, Gracie) changing, we’ll decide it’s time to change the game plan. For example, we had one when it was time to start thinking about potty training and we had another one when Bean became much more mobile around a year old. Usually game plan conversations happen at night after Bean’s gone to bed and we can really talk through whatever issue we need to address. We both talk about what behavior is new in Bean and needs attention (and it isn’t always bad behavior – we talk a lot about good things, too) and then we work through different ways we want to deal with it. Having a game plan keeps us on the same page. It makes it easier on us because we put together a formula of sorts. “If this happens, then we will respond like this…” And it makes sure we are both parenting the same way, which is really important for kids. They need that consistency and having a game plan helps Chris and I to be consistent.

This past weekend, Chris and I started to formulate our game plan for Bean this summer when I’m home with him. Not only is he adjusting to Gracie, but he’s also adjusting to not being in daycare every day and on top of all that, he’s entering the Two’s. That’s a lot of change for both him and us and so our parenting needs to change a bit, too. Our biggest game changer in the coming months is our use of time out. The change being that we are now actually DOING time outs. We’ve used them sporadically in the past, but we’ve decided to use them consistently and more frequently now. We decided to enforce the time out rule mostly because Bean understands the concept of it now. He knows when he’s done something wrong, he knows how to sit still for two minutes, and he understands when he’s in trouble.

We don’t use time out all the time (or else it would lose it’s effectiveness), but we use it for specific actions. As our pediatrician suggested, we use it when Bean is outright defiant. When I tell him something and he looks right at me and does something else – that’s a time out. Our time outs work like this:

Bean gets a warning (“Michael, we do not hit the dogs.”). If he changes his behavior, we throw a party. If he doesn’t change his behavior, he gets a time out warning (“Michael, Mommy said we do not hit the dogs. Do you need a time out?” He always violently shakes his head no.). If he changes his behavior, we throw a party. If he doesn’t change his behavior, he gets a time out (“Michael, you are in time out because you hit Molly. We don’t hit.”). He sits in time out for two minutes, usually crying. And then I go back over to him and ask him to apologize (“Okay, buddy. Thank you for sitting in time out. Let’s go tell Molly you are sorry for hitting her.”). When the apology is over, I release him and we move on (“What a big boy you are for saying you’re sorry! I’m so proud of you! Let’s go play outside.”)

There are a ton of ways to do a time out and I’m sure it depends on your child and your parenting style, but I think the trick – no matter how you enforce it – is to be consistent each time. Having a game plan for Chris and I helps us to keep processes like this consistent for Bean. He knows no matter who he is dealing with, certain behaviors aren’t allowed and the punishment will always be the same.

This week was our first week with the new game plan and I am happy to report it’s been a great week. The two days there were several time outs as Bean started to realize some of his previous behaviors were no longer going to be tolerated (i.e. throwing toys and yelling inside), but once he got the hang of the new parameters, there have been MUCH less time outs. We didn’t even have one yesterday. He got the time out warning and since he knew what was coming next, he changed his behavior and life moved on.

I’m learning that discipline and teaching in toddlers is just as much about parental communication as it is about the child. Chris and I have to be on the same page for the discipline to work and we can’t be on the same page unless we’re talking about specific actions and steps we want to take as a family. And I’m so glad to see the positive effects of those game plans already coming through in Beanie.

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14 Thoughts to “The Parenting Game Plan”

  1. I think its great y’all talk about your parenting plans. Thats one major problem in alot of families is the lack of communication between mom and dad. We did time outs for all both my girls starting at around 18 mo. with the warning like you described. Of course like you said, the most important thing to remember with any discipline is consistency. I remember when my 2nd came along when my oldest was 3 yrs old and the time outs went out the window for the first few weeks..well lets just say it took alot of extra work to get back to a happy house!

  2. You’re such good parents!!
    I wish I’m as good as you when my turn comes…

  3. I love this. We’re not to that age yet but these are great tips for when we get there. However I do know the importance of consistency, even at 3 months old. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Katie, the more I read your blog, the more I know that Bean & Gracie are going to grow up to be such amazing people, all thanks to you & Chris. The two of you are amazing parents, I really admire the way that the two of you really seem to communicate and share so much about what way the two of you will raise your children. It really is inspiring, and someday when I’m in the position you and Chris are in now, I know that I will take on a lot of the things that you have written about in your blog, and hopefully I will be even close to being as great a mom as you are.

  5. I love hearing about you all and how you parent your kids. I wish more parents took the time to have those discussions as a couple about what they want to do as far as raising their children. I don’t think it happens often enough.

  6. Nova Kristin

    You hit the two most important things, communication and consistency. 🙂
    Y’all are awesome!!

  7. You are such good parents! Bean and Gracie are very lucky. Thanks for sharing your great parenting plan!

  8. I’m logging this for later. I really like your timeout thing. Especially since it seems to work!

  9. Niki

    That’s a great post Kate. Thank you for sharing. I am not so sure about the time-out solution though. May I suggest some further reading? Check out this article: The case against time out

  10. anita

    Can I add another discipline challenge to your game plan? When Bean does something wrong, tell him what you want him to do. Eliminate the word “Don’t.” Words create a picture in our mind. Try to create the picture of “Pet the dog gently.” instead of “…..hit the dog.”

  11. I like how you guys talk together so that you can parent consistently…too many times I’ve seen one parent be more disciplined and the other more lax. It’s great that you guys have such a good teamwork thing going!

  12. You are doing just what you need to with Bean. And if and when he hits the point that he chooses to do what you’ve asked him not to just follow through. My son didn’t hit that point until he was almost three, and let me tell you we’ve had our moments. Three years old brought with it a whole new level of independence. But it’s normal and natural and in all truth healthy for kids to test their boundaries.

  13. Diane

    Great Post. I think the most important thing is you and Chris are consistent and agree on the discipline style! We have 3 kiddos ranging from 9 to 4 now, and each child had had to be disciplined a bit differently. However the one thing we did was to NOT impose a time out time limit… they had to go to the steps (our time out seat) and they could get up when they felt ready to control themselves. Usually they would stay longer than I would have sat them there! LOL and the upside was we rarely had them go back for the same behavior (well for that playtime!) Anyway…love the blog and thanks!

  14. I completely agree! I think communication as parents is key to raising healthy, happy children….AND, more importantly, reducing stress in your marriage. The idea of having a consistent discipline routine from both parents….ah, I love it! We’ve only had to have a few “game plan” discussions so far about Zoe, but I foresee many many more to come in the future. Consistency is key!

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