5 Reasons Time-Out should be Out.
As parents, we are doing the very best we know how. At times we are so tired and exhausted that we react to our kids with automatic responses such as, “Because I said so!” or “Time out!”
Our boxing gloves are on and we’re ready to get in the ring!
But is the highly popular use of time-out giving our kids a chance to really “think about what they’ve done” or are they left fuming with angry thoughts…ahem… usually towards us? Are we really taking advantage of the prime teaching opportunities in hopes that they will be “taught a lesson” on their own?
Let’s imagine this typical scenario (Let me add that my child really didn’t want to stop playing and put on his shirt- no acting necessary here!):
A child is playing with his favorite toy and his parent comes in and announces,
“We need to go. It’s time to get dressed.”
Child responds with a defiant, “NOOO!”
Parent: (Trying to remain calm) “You must. Please put it on.”
Child: “I don’t want to!”
Parent: (Feeling a bit frazzled) “We need to go, NOW!”
And thus the power struggle begins.
Then the frustrated child yells,“I HAAAATE YOU!”
Parent: (shocked and angry) “That’s it! TIME-OUT MISTER!!”
And, in the chair he goes.
Sound familiar? Okay maybe that last part is a bit extreme… I was trying to think of something that would then require a time-out but whatever it is that pushes the limit…
Is there a better way?
Recent research is showing us an outstanding YES!
Here are 5 reasons time-outs are less effective than we think:
1. Focuses on behavior only:
Time-out or what was once called, “Time out from Positive Reinforcement” was initially a response as an alternative to spanking. It was derived in the 1950s after lab experiments on animals revealed findings about behavior modification. This then translated to children. If you took your child away from something they enjoyed for short periods of time, then they will decrease their negative behavior. The problem is that it places focus on what we want our child NOT to do, rather than what we WANT them to do? Our children may be behaving out of fear of punishment rather than it be internally driven.
2. Often done in anger
Let’s be honest; usually the only person who really needs the time out is the parent. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a mini tantrum right along side my two-year-old. And let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Despite the ideal concept that time-outs are supposed to be a brief pause in a caregiver’s interaction with a child, it usually can end up in a huge power struggle. You are mad. The child is mad. And any chance of them truly practicing self-calming skills goes out the window. *Note- Putting yourself in a time-out to calm down is totally an acceptable and responsible thing to do! Sometimes we need a moment before things get ugly. Excuse yourself for a moment when you feel your blood begin to boil. *Another Note: If they also choose to excuse themselves as a way to calm down- more power to them. It’s their coping skill they are working on developing. It is more of a problem when we force them to do it.
3. Increases Shame
We have taken the effectiveness of a time-out and placed emphasis on a chair. We use a “naughty chair” or corner as a place for the child to reside before they can have the privilege of getting out. It can feel belittling, not to mention the temptation of wanting to begin the lecture by giving a verbal spanking with questions like ask, “What were you thinking?” or “What’s wrong with you!” It’s difficult to not want to lecture when we have our child’s attention and our emotions are running hot.
4. Isolation can be Scary
Young children look to us as their own personal “North Star” especially when they don’t understand their confusing emotions. Isolating children (especially young children) can seem scary as they are left to process those big feelings alone. Does leaving a child to ” think about what they have done” deprive them of the opportunity to have a conversation, collaborate, and come up with their own solution to their problems with you by their side?
5. Puts a Strain on the Relationship
Children have a profound need for connection. Research shows that in times of distress we need to be near and soothed by the people we love. Time-outs can feel like a temporary love withdrawal for our children especially in a moment when they need to be soothed the most. Remember that when this child becomes a teenager, your relationship is your main source of influence. Is it worth the risk of relationship strain?
So what are we left to do?
Consider modifying TIME-OUTS to more of a TIME-IN instead. Sit with your child, comforting them, connecting, and discussing solutions. Reflect their feelings and try to gain an understanding of their actions. Let’s get rid of the notion that if we give our child more attention then we are somehow spoiling them. Usually, a child who is acting out is a child who may need some unconditional love the most. Don’t be afraid to give it to them. Visit this post here for more on what a child is truly needing from us and “choosing love.”
Now, let’s rewind to the previous scenario and change it up a bit.
The parent enters the room (after giving a 5-minute warning to help process the transition) and gets down on child’s level and announces that it’s time to go.
Child is upset and still says, “No!”
Parent: “You are sad about having to stop playing with your trains. I know how much you love playing trains.”
Parent: “I can see how important this for you, could I spend some time playing with you for 5 minutes before we go?”
5 minutes is up.
Success! He feels empowered and puts on his own shirt.
I know it is pretty idealistic that it could go that smoothly. But I have found much success in fighting those automatic responses and instead entering my child’s world by viewing it from their perspective. We both feel connected and understood. And the best part is that he internally wants to make great choices on his own. Win win.
Other examples of things you could do during a time-in would be to read a favorite book or to snuggle and connect.
*On a side note- during our “time in” my son shared with me that he has had a thorn in his finger. I would have never known that about him and wondered if that was attributing to his sour mood. It pays to not jump to conclusions that a child’s misbehavior must be corrected right away before understanding his perspective.
So, in conclusion… modify your TIME-OUT with a TIME-IN instead and remember to CONNECT and THEN REDIRECT!
Also, can I suggest another great read by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson called No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind:
They highlight the link between a child’s neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior and it’s fascinating! They also remind us of the true meaning of the word discipline which actually means to instruct and how we can identify our own discipline philosophy and peacefully resolve conflicts and strengthen connections with our kiddos!
I know there are so many different philosophies and styles out there in the parenting world. What are your thoughts about time-outs? Do they work for you or not work for you? Remember to keep it a judgment-free zone! We are doing the very best we can and out of love for our kids! For more ways to show love visit me at www.weedstowishes.com or on Instagram @weedstowishes !
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