Thursday, July 22, 2010

Time-outs = Explosion!

Today my son had another rage because he refused to go into a time-out after hitting his brother. This seems to happen whenever our son is not stable. He just explodes as soon as he hears the word “time-out”. It’s not like he’s being sent to an evil place, he has a nice room with plenty to do, but the thought of being placed in there just escalates his behavior to the highest intensity. He becomes violent, screaming and throwing things, taking a mild situation to a threatening one.

We had discussed this challenge with our therapist at our last appointment, but he insisted that we continue to do time-outs with my son locked in his room, he said that there was no alternative to calm him down and keep us safe. He even had us practice going into time-outs when he’s calm, giving him rewards for doing this. We would have him go into his room with a pretend time-out and have him think of ways to calm himself down, telling himself that this wasn’t a bad thing, only a step to make him better. Well the therapy sessions went great, my son practiced this everyday, but just as I told our therapist, once his trigger is pulled, all common sense gets thrown out the window and the situation turns into something very ugly.

Today a battle took place at his bedroom door when I was trying to put him in his time-out. Since he’s broken the locks on his door, I have to hold the door shut to keep him in his room. The problem is that he’s a lot stronger and even more so in a rage, so he’s pulling on the door from the other side, jabbing a long stick at me through the door. If I open the door, he’s ready to run out and cause harm to others, so it becomes a tug of war of trying to keep him in his room. In the end, I couldn’t keep the door closed so I had to hold him on the ground for over 30 minutes while he struggles to get away, scratching and trying to bite me from the front and kicking me from the back. After an hour, we’re both sweating, I feel beat up and he’s now crying as he returns to a calm state.

Sitting on the floor, I held him in my arms after it was all over. He began to sob. I did too. I told him that if I could take this away from him I would, but I couldn’t. But what I could do was be by his side and love him. I reminded him that I would always love him no matter what.

Tonight I’m feeling so broken, I feel like a little piece of me dies after each of these major episodes. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for my son.

I’m feeling angry at his therapist (but can’t afford to change), I’m feeling sadness for my son and I’m feeling discouraged that this is what his life will be, always looking for stability knowing that it slips away so quickly. If only I could rescue my son and make him all better, but knowing my limitations, I continue to pray over him every night that God would heal him completely.


  1. Have you ever tried a time in? I used with my son, but they did not work with my older daughter. They are bipolar.

    The way it works is when you see the rage brewing, you matter-of-factly announce "We need a time in". You and your son pick the place ahead of time and have a soother waiting. With my son it was music, although he occasionally changed which music. We practice when he was in a good space, so that anything irritating in the room could be removed. We used my room, which kept the rage away from his sleeping place room. I just sat with him and as long as he kept the rage verbal, I waited it out. As soon as there was anything physical, I sat on him, and repeatedly told him as soon as he was ready, he could control himself. After he was back, I would scratch his back as he told me as much as he was capable of about what the trigger was and what he was feeling. It did not work with my daughter because she hated physical contact.

  2. Mama Bear-please look at the Nurtured Heart Approach-Kenzie was the same way until we did this approach and oh the struggles we had-three holes in her walls, one in her door, door removed, wrestling all over the floor while trying to do the "love hold" and getting beat up, etc. This approach is amazing! She has not had one of those explosions in a long time since we started this approach. And if they start to happen the approach diminishes them very quickly. Read the workbook not the long book. It is written by Lisa Bravo, she is a therapist here in Az-our therapist. The workbook is short and I'll be glad to help you along the way. It also coincides with what Erika talked about what happens when she rages and how to handle them. I'll look up the exact name of the book but her website is Try it-we tried everything and nothing worked until this. Our thinking was it can't hurt and we have tried everything else, so why not? Let me know what you think. Amy

  3. Time outs have never worked for my son. In fact, they can make a rage much worse. I always just have to figure out what is scaring him (ask him, get him to talk through the rage) and try and get him to let go of that fear or help him through that emotion. Once you do it a time or two it gets easier and your son will start to realize they are fear based behaviors and he'll be quicker to stop them as well.

  4. okay, I read my comment again and I sounded kinda of pushy. I didn't mean too. I just wish I had known that approach several years ago. I know it would have prevented so much stress and so I am eager to share it. Sorry if I was too pushy. You have to do what you think is best for your family.

  5. Thanks everyone for the feedback, and don't worry Amy I didn't think you were pushy at all, I'll be looking into your suggestion. In the meantime I was able to talk to our therapist and he said I could try timeouts with the door open, we'll see if this brings down some of the intensity. I really appreciate everyone being so supportive!!

  6. I'm so sorry I didn't get this till this morning. I wish I'd have seen it sooner. (Can't find a way to get your blog via should email me after post. LOL)

    ANYWAYS...I've so been there. I gave up on putting PDog in a time out when he's that angry. Instead I have him lay on the couch. That way he can punch it or bang his head on the cushions without out hurting himself or me.

    There have been times where I've just had to hold him in my arms to keep him from hurting himself though. But the weird part is he wouldn't dare hurt me. I think this is pretty atypical of bipolar kids, but I'm not complaining.

    I guess my thing is, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to be left alone when he's so angry, and I really don't trust him alone when he's raging.

    Once he's calmed down, then we work on a time out. But our time outs consist of standing against the wall, nose to the wall hands behind the back. (I hope that doesn't sound too mean) It kind of works...sometimes. LOL

  7. I'm sorry to hear of your struggles. You are not alone. Time-outs when my son is in a rage are about as useful as a fork for eating an apple. We have been through the door-holding battle as well.

    Today our therapist told me to tell him he can go outside and run the cul-de-sac...I don't think he really gets what I say when I'm telling him a violent rage. He'd push down mailboxes, throw rocks at windows, etc.

    I'm going to go look up the "Nurtured Heart Approach". I'm up for anything nowadays!

  8. “As useful as a fork for eating an apple.” LOL! I love that! I agree that sometimes I feel like the doctors don’t really understand what is happening during a rage.