One of the most commonly used parenting techniques in current day used throughout schools, homes, and day cares is “time-out”. “Timeout” is based primarily on a way of thinking that implies children act out for attention. Therefore, if a child is acting out ‘for’ attention, you don’t want to reward the child but rather give the child ‘time-out’ to think about their negative behaviors, thereby making better decisions next time. Considering that educators and professionals are still teaching and writing about this technique as though it were a ‘new’ alternative behavior discipline method, let’s ask the question: What makes “time-out” any different than standing with your nose in the corner, sitting on the dunce chair, being sent to your room, or having to sit in the naughty chair? Can someone please tell me the difference?
Bishop T.D. Jakes says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always be where you’ve already been!” If the dunce chair or standing with your nose in the corner didn’t work when we were children, then why do we think by dressing it up as something seemingly more contemporary, that it is going to work now? Many of you may be saying, “But it does work. All I have to do is start counting to three and my child stops their behavior to avoid time out,” or maybe you’re saying, “If it’s good enough for Super Nanny, it’s good enough for me.” Have you seen the new King Kong flick? Well, to a two-year old, an adult looks something like Kong did to the blonde, an utter giant. Wouldn’t you sit in a chair for two or three minutes if King Kong told you to do so? Wouldn’t you stop your behavior if you knew that if you continued, you would lose the loving support of your most secure attachment figure? Help me understand how it makes sense to send a child whose behavior is clearly communicating that they are unable to manage their current emotional state, to go sit by themselves to sort through their upset emotions, alone “Time-out” does not recognize the developmental and regulatory struggles a child is demonstrating in the midst of their behavior of acting out. Consider for a moment that rather than a child acting out ‘for’ attention, he is in fact, acting out because he ‘needs’ attention. Read that sentence again. It can make all of the difference. Instead of sending the child off to sit in a chair or be isolated, bring the child into you for a period of time. Have him sit next to you, hold your hand, stand beside you. Say to the child, “When you are feeling better you may go back and play.” In other words, allow the child to determine how much time-in that he needs. Important point: It is not imperative that you touch the child during this time. A child that does not want to be touched, or reacts violently, should not be touched. In that moment, the child is in survival mode and feels very threatened. Keep your distance, but indicate to the child that you are nearby and will stay so, until the child feels safer.
“Time-in” can be a very effective alternative to “time-out”. “Time-in” teaches compassion, regulation, the ability to create internal calm in the midst of stress, and understanding. Before providing “Time-In” for your child, give some to yourself. Take a moment, find a quiet corner, take four deep breaths, and find your calm, peaceful self. Now you are ready to help calm your child.
Author: B. Bryan Post, PhD, LCSW
Copyright© 2006 Dr. Bryan Post. All rights reserved. About the author: To learn more about “time-in” and calming your child when in a state of stress, visit Postfamilysystem.com and parentingtheadoptedchild.com . B. Bryan Post PhD, LCSW, is an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of children and families struggling with issues related to trauma.
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