I realized, after corresponding with a few of you about my last post, that I'd left out an important bit of nuance.
We aren't "sending Ben to his room" in the traditional time-out sense. In fact, it's been really important that we don't treat this as a punishment.
Again, thanks to Jordan at Communication Therapy for framing it this way.
We suggest to Ben that he go to his room the way a helpful but deadpan maitre'd at a fancy restaurant would offer a very important, stinky cigar-smoking patron a booth far from other customers.
"Sir, I believe you would be much more comfortable in our private booth."
Prompting Ben to go somewhere else to cool off doesn't focus (overtly) on stopping the behavior, it's just about moving it to another location. So it's a relatively unthreatening proposal.
The result is that the behavior does stop - but this happens because Ben self-regulates rather than responding to threats of punishment (which can just pour gasoline on the fire).
And, more importantly, I think that Ben is starting to grasp the real consequences of his actions: "You hurt people's feelings when you express anger this way."
The focus isn't on the anger, but on the expression of it. (Wow, I feel like I'm channeling Jordan right now.)
That's not to say that we aren't trying to teach better ways of coping to begin with, but once we've passed the point of no return in the rage cycle there's not a lot of learning going on.
Reflecting on this made me recall a recent Slate article on how lowering the emotional intensity with which we respond to our kids' behavior is often the best tactic for changing it.