What do you do when you are faced with a toddler that starts crying and throwing themselves on the floor because they wanted a cookie and couldn’t have one or wanted to play with their brother or sister’s toys but weren’t allowed too? Or maybe your pre-schooler that starts throwing “tantrums” because they don’t want to do their homework or don’t want to wash their hair.
What’s wrong with timeouts?
Dr Laura Markham from ahaparenting says, “On the surface, Timeouts seem sensible. They're non-violent but still get the child's attention. Plus, they give the parent and child a much-needed break from each other while emotions run high.
And it’s true that timeouts are infinitely better than hitting -- and also better than yelling. But timeouts teach the wrong lessons, and they don’t work to create better behaved children. In fact, they tend to worsen kids' behaviour.”
Time-Outs don’t teach children to regulate their emotions.
You are teaching your child that his/her emotions are unacceptable in your presence and that he/she is all alone to learn to manage them. A parent need to teach their children how to calm themselves down and the best way is to accept their out of control feelings and showing them how to regulate it.
Time-Outs put kids on the defensive, so real remorse is less likely.
At the end of the day, you want to teach your child to recognize his/her mistake and make things better.
Time-Outs create power struggles.
Most kids don’t go to time-out and sit for the allotted time without threats.
Time-Outs only work while you can still drag your child.
Meanwhile, you’re missing the opportunity to teach your child the art of finding win/win solutions.
Timeouts make kids see themselves as bad people and shame them.
Not only does this lower self esteem, it creates bad behaviour, because people who feel bad about themselves behave badly.
As Otto Weininger, Ph.D. author of Time-In Parenting says:
“Sending children away to get control of their anger perpetuates the feeling of 'badness" inside them...Chances are they were already feeling not very good about themselves before the outburst and the isolation just serves to confirm in their own minds that they were right.”
If you want to teach your child how to deal with their emotions and how to regulate them, you’ll need to do that before a meltdown starts. Start looking at the warning signs and then take your child to a “TIME IN”. This signals to your child that you understand she's got some big emotions going on and you're right there with her. If she's ready for a melt-down, you're there to help. Just let her know you're there and she's safe.
Let’s look at the differences between time out and time in:
Time-out is a term for a form of punishment that involves temporarily separating a child from an environment where inappropriate behaviour has occurred, and is intended to decrease positive reinforcement of the behaviour. It can be a naughty chair/step, facing a wall or being sent to their room.
Although the time out tactic can potentially prevent a behaviour from occurring in the moment it can also make children feel abandoned, rejected, frightened and confused.
The Positive parenting tool called time IN is when a child that is having a difficult time is kindly invited to sit somewhere, near by a care giver to express their feelings and eventually cool down.
During the time in, parents are encouraged to empathize with the child’s feelings and often just quiet connection is all that is needed until the storm has passed. It doesn’t mean that you must let your child continue with a behaviour that is inappropriate. The time in gives you the opportunity to really connect and then address whatever change needs to be made.
Below is an example from Dr Laura Markham on how to use a TIME IN, rather than a TIME OUT:
Your child is acting cranky and belligerent. Finally, she throws her cup across the room. Should you send her to Time-Out? No.
Instead, you realize that this behaviour is a red flag and take pre-emptive action to help her. If she could articulate what’s going on, she might say “Hey, Mom, Dad, I’m having a really hard time here. I woke up feeling grumpy. You ran out of my favourite cereal. You rushed me off to preschool, and it took a lot for me to sit quietly so much of the day and follow directions. And then I finally get home and dinner isn’t even ready yet and that little brother you think is so cute is always on your lap, while you tell me to wait just a minute! I wonder if anyone around here even cares about me at all! Maybe you got a replacement because I’m just not good enough for you!”
Of course, she can’t say that. So she acts it out with her difficult behaviour. Your daughter has been stuffing down fears and tears all day long, waiting for a safe chance to let them out. Now all those emotions are coming up, so she’s “acting (the feelings) out.”
But you realize that what she really needs is a chance to get all those tears and fears off her chest. So you say “Cups aren’t for throwing. You’re having a hard time, aren’t you, Sweetie? Let’s go to our chill spot and snuggle for a bit.”
You go to a specially designated spot that feels safe and cozy, and snuggle up. You connect, which may be all your child needs to pull herself together. If you can, you get her giggling, because laughter vents those stored-up anxieties almost as well as tears.
If none of that is quite enough, your child will let you know by escalating her whining and belligerence. That means she still needs to cry, and she’s trying to pick a fight with you so she can move into tears. So at that point, you calmly, kindly, set a limit: “You’re tearing the book pages, Sweetie…Books are precious, we don’t tear them…I see you’re upset…We’re going to put the book away for now.” You put the book out of reach, and she bursts into tears.
Remind yourself that emotions aren’t bad, they’re just part of being human. Hold her if you can, or stay close. You don’t have to DO anything; your job is simply to create safety so she can feel all these emotions and let them go.
If she yells “Don’t look at me” then respect that. If she yells, “Go away!” you can say “I will move back a bit, just to here…I won’t leave you alone with these scary feelings.” Use your voice as a bridge to tell her she’s safe, you’re right there. Don’t talk much. Don’t ask her what’s wrong. Don’t take anything she says personally. Talking forces kids into their heads. Let her stay in her heart and unburden her tears and fears.
Soon, the storm will pass. Your child will be in your arms, hugging you and wanting to know that she’s still loved. She’ll feel so grateful that you were there for her and so connected to you.
Timeouts are a terrific management technique for keeping your own emotions regulated. When you find yourself losing it, take a breather of your own. This keeps you from doing anything you’ll be sorry about later. It models wonderful self-management for your kids. And it ultimately makes your discipline more effective because you aren’t making threats you won’t carry out.
Additional links: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/timeouts
Author bio: Juanne Cronjè is a mother of two precious gifts from God. She is very passionate about parenting and reads up on various topics. When she isn’t writing she works in the Financial Sector. Find her here: firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Researched-and-Informed-Parenting/234828546718236?ref=bookmarks
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