Parenting Without Punishment: I'm Giving Time Outs a Time Out
How many time outs have you successfully given in your parenting career? Honestly. Ones that resulted in the child sitting quietly and then returning to the scene composed, apologetic and ready to play?
I would honestly say in my 12 years of parenting that I have done that a handful of times. That's not to say that I haven't yelled haphazardly "time out!!!" but it never really works out very well.
It may be because I don't really believe in time outs as a discipline strategy. I have taken too many parenting classes. I prefer the time in approach. If a child is breaking down and being difficult and not listening and possibly getting aggressive then they should absolutely be removed from the situation. But I don't abandon them on the stairs.
A child who is losing it needs to learn how to manage their emotions through coaching. Do you know what is going through their minds when they are sitting alone in their rooms? You don't want to know. Because those are angry, vengeful thoughts. Yes, kids in time outs do calm down eventually, but sometimes it takes a gargantuan effort on behalf of the parent to do it.
This article from Today's Parent may seem like a permissive approach to discipline. Hugging your child after they have done something wrong may feel counter-intuitive. But acting out, especially in toddlers and preschoolers, is just a cry for attention or a way to express frustration.
Anger floods our brains with emotions so we can't be rational and make good decisions. It does the same thing for kids and our job is to teach them to calm down so they can deal with their anger and then compromise, apologize or respond to the situation.
“Calming down is a life skill,” says parenting expert Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress. “Removing the child from the situation and sitting with them helps them get a grip on their emotions. Kids can’t do it on their own — we need to help them learn that self-control.” Traditional time out — particularly dispatching kids to their rooms — is little more than jail time, argues Arnall. “It’s a punitive measure, and there are no studies that show that punishment helps kids gain control and have better relationships,” she says.
I realize that not giving time outs seems like a crazy idea but so does chasing your kid around the house to get them sit still. But if they aren't working for you, try a time in. Really. You don't have to tell anyone.
I have to admit that usually, if anyone needs a time out, it's me.
Do you use time outs? Do they work? Have you tried a time in?
Want more chaos? Last year, I expressed a little peanut allergy fatigue.