Saturday, December 30, 2006

Crime and Punishment

We've been telling Kenny for almost 2 years now to cough into his elbow. That's what his daycare teachers ask the kids to do, to avoid transmitting germs. It seems like a good idea to me, considering that most of the time a tissue isn't handy.

Anyway - Kenny almost never actually did cough into his elbow. He would cough, not covering up, we would say, "Cough into your elbow!", and that would be that. If he coughed again within a minute or so, he might cough into his elbow, but otherwise he would forget.

Until about a week ago. Eric and I were baking Christmas cookies with Kenny, who had a persistent cough. He coughed right onto the Christmas cookies. Yech! We said the usual, "Cough into your elbow!" He coughed onto the Christmas cookies again a few minutes later. And then I gave him a time out.

Ever since then, literally without fail, he coughs into his elbow. Eric noticed that he was coughing into his elbow all the time, and said, "What brought that on?". And then I remembered the time-out that I had given him for NOT coughing into his elbow. That must have been it - it would be too much of a coincidence otherwise.

This is an interesting concept. I had always had the idea, previously, that time-outs should be reserved for bad behavior such as hitting, being rude, etc. But now I see that giving a time-out for behavior that's not really bad, just forgetful, can also be quite effective.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there might be few other factors. Coughing into the cookies would give a child a graphic example of why to cough into his elbow. To "protect from germs" is a little abstract.

Also, did you ever try rewarding for coughing into the elbow?

Having two children who fought, I used timeouts (in my head) as a method of communication. Timeouts were always pretty short and used to create a space for a conversation about the behavior in question.

I guess I'm writing because I would disagree with using timeout to address forgetful behavior.

3:21 PM  

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