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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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Hello. Our 2-1/2-year-old son is a triplet and has a developed

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Hello. Our 2-1/2-year-old son is a triplet and has a developed an issue with spitting on the floor, us, etc. My husband recently found a new job after having been laid off for some time, and we suspect our son may be acting out as a result of him being gone (they are close). Time outs have been unsuccessful. What would you recommend? Thank you.
Hello and thank you for consulting JA,
Since time-outs are not working, it may be necessary to regress to disciplinary techniques that are usually appropriate for a younger child. This adjustment to Dad being gone may have actually caused a bit of a temporary developmental regression. So, using a more simple strategy may work. The strategy to try is known as "removal and distraction". So you still state the rule just as you would for a time out, "No, our rule is NO SPITTING." Then, you remove him (carry or take by hand) from the situation which has lead to the spitting and distract him with another activity. While doing this reflect what he might be feeling "I can see you feel mad right now". This is done in a very matter of fact way, without fanfare. It is not a reward or punishment but just a de-escalating maneuver. With this strategy, the spitting may increase at first but will eventually subside. If you are not in a place when you can remove him (i.e., the car), then say all the same things and give him a distracting objects. The most important aspect is stating the rule and reflecting the feeling. Hopefully he will learn to verbalize the feeling as you have taught through your reflective statement and eventually use word instead of actions.

I hope this helps! Warm regards,
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