Last week we posted an article about smacking and why you shouldn’t smack your kids. Wow. There were some strong responses. Some very angry people and also a lot of people who agreed vehemently. We also received a lot of requests for different approaches to discipline. So today we get to take some time out with Meg Parkinson who is a parenting educator and examines the use of time out.
Please note that we are NOT publishing this in order to judge parents or children or to tell you how to parent. We are just looking at different opinions. Meg writesMany parents cringe when time out is mentioned as a strategy. It is fraught with confusion. There just seems to be so much conflicting information and advice. Most of which seems to view it as the ultimate punishment for any crime. It is a jail sentence. Children are required to sit in purgatory, in isolation and shame and to ‘think about how naughty they are’. A lot of parents say it doesn’t work. It doesn’t usually, not if you use it in this punitive manner.
Time out means time away from the situation in which the problem behaviour occurs. As adults, we know that if we are having a problem at work, or having trouble dealing with another person, it is best to take a break. When we come back to it, we find that the situation is much easier to handle.
Children need breaks too, especially when they are overstimulated, making poor behavioural choices or are generally not feeling in control. So, I see time out as more of a holiday, a little break away from whatever it is that is causing the problem. It is a chance to regroup before coming back and having another go. This is a great habit for children to learn early. (We all know that if we don’t get the opportunity for a break, we can very easily have our own tantrums!) Your kids are lucky; they have you to say, ‘You know what, it looks like you need to take a break. It’s time to go to your room for some quiet time.’ Afterwards, they can come back refreshed and ready to show us what we know they can do, and how they can ask for things politely, and how they can sort out whose turn it is on the computer! Personally, I have always found holidays in a comforting, calming place much more attractive than jail as an option to help me get back on track. Children seem to agree.
If a few basic principles are observed, time out can be a very effective and positive way to overcome challenging behaviours. Time out is not to make them mind; it is to teach them how to calm down when they are not dealing very well with a situation.
The main points:
1. Carefully choose the behaviour that you want to use time out for. It is essential to use it consistently, so you must be sure which behaviour you want to use it for.
Remember, it is much easier to stay in charge of ‘holiday makers’ who understand that when they are feeling grumpy or are hurting others, they get a free trip to the sanctuary of their room, than trying to control disgruntled ‘criminals’ in jail cells.
2. Tell your child during a peaceful moment that whenever the chosen behaviour occurs he or she will have to go to a room, it could be their bedroom, a favourite place in the house, a cosy beanbag. Explain to them that they will be taking a break, let them choose things that they could do during this time that they find calming. Show them what they can do if they’re really angry, such as pummelling pillows. (Remember, it is okay to be angry, but it is not ok to take anger out on people. Teach them how to let the emotion out in appropriate ways.) It is a really good idea to role-play what will happen, practice taking them into their room calmly and helping them get set up for their holiday.