TIME OUT is a very well-known parenting technique, which parents use when trying to handle a child’s misbehavior.
However, using a TIME OUT can severely strain the parent-child relationship.
A better technique is TIME IN.
Children are very sensitive to getting their needs met. When one or more of their needs aren’t being met, they will definitely let us know.
Children who are diagnosed with ADHD or other developmental disorders have an even harder time controlling their emotions and letting us know what is bothering them.
For these children, their frustration and their misbehavior are a cry for help.
CHILDREN NEED OUR HELP
Children can get very angry and demanding when their needs are not met.
They are physically unable to do most self-care tasks.
By nature, children have strong emotional needs and vulnerabilities. Young children are not able to handle frustration well. Also, they are unable to identify or articulate the frustrated needs that are making them upset.
To help reduce children’s meltdowns, KCA suggests mindfulness meditation. We have teamed up with Mellisa Dormoy to provide parents with some tools to help their children with impulse regulation.
The result is that children are unable to tell their parents what is bothering them, and they are unable to independently fulfill their needs.
DISADVANTAGES OF TIME OUT
In a TIME OUT, parents demand that their child goes to a corner to quit misbehaving and to be quiet. She is to come back when she has her emotions and behavior under control.
In another article, we discussed that our child’s emotions should not be dismissed. So, in a TIME OUT, all those emotions are dismissed.
These emotions were the product of unmet needs that caused the behavior in the first place. The child is now hurt because his/her painful emotional needs were dismissed.
Children depend on love and need their parents.
The child who needs his/her parents is now pushed away from the basic source of comfort and security. This enforced separation from the parents on whom she or he relies on to meet his/her needs creates painful emotions such as fear, worry, and abandonment.
The child dares not to express his frustration in TIME OUT. When that child is released, he/she may act out in the future to express his anger about being put in TIME OUT.
TIME OUT increases frustrations felt by a child who is already frustrated.
As Otto Weininger, Ph.D. author of TIME IN Parenting says:
“Sending children away to get control of their anger only perpetuates the feeling of “badness” in 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 they were right.”
Parents may get into physical brawls while trying to drag their child to TIME OUT, which is stressful on parent and child.
In TIME OUT, our child does NOT try to resolve to be a better person. That child is plotting revenge.
TIME OUTS fuel escalating misbehavior.
We are less likely to see our child’s perspective and understand our child, which allows us to get closer to our child. Instead, we put the child in TIME OUT and that child is angry about it. The child may get momentarily quiet to get out of TIME OUT. However, his anger over the TIME OUT will come at a later date.
THE LONG-TERM NEGATIVE IMPACT OF TIME OUT
TIME OUTS are infinitely better than hitting, however, they teach the wrong lessons.
And, it doesn’t work to create better-behaved children. A TIME OUT teaches a child that uncomfortable emotions should be just stuffed.
It also teaches your child that you will push that child away for expressing challenging emotions.
To cope, children learn to suppress those uncomfortable feelings and distract themselves from the painful feelings that go on inside.
The distraction method they use could be nervous habits, skin scratching, self-pinching, tugging at clothes, tics, or/and sucking a thumb.
The purpose of these behaviors is to ward off uncomfortable feelings and they may go on to identify with the parent’s criticism to punish themselves. We don’t want our children to ignore uncomfortable feelings.
We want them to feel comfortable in expressing those feelings. We need a TIME IN with our children.
TIME IN WITH OUR CHILDREN
Parents can have a well-behaved child by putting TIME IN to learn the cause of their child’s misbehavior. We need to put the TIME IN to make sure our children’s needs are met.
Let’s give our children a safe place to explore their emotional needs.
WHAT’S TIME IN?
When you see the warning signs of a meltdown, take your child to a “TIME IN” to help her/him calm down.
It’s terrific to set up a little space for TIME IN.
That space can signal to the child that it is a place where the two of you will sit down and try to understand what created such anger. Remind your child that you are right there with her to resolve it.
This space can be in the corner of the child’s room or a corner of the main living area, where a child can sit with you by his/her side so you can listen to what the child has to say.
Generation Mindful has a Time In Tool Kit that you may want to use to help set up this special place for your child to cool down.
Once the meltdown starts, it’s too late to teach anything.
That child is in fight/flight mode and her thinking is shut down.
That child cannot reason anything. If your child is in a meltdown because he/she didn’t get his/her way, don’t give in and give the child what the child wants.
Offer the child your loving attention until the child calms down. Stay close to her so you don’t trigger abandonment panic, and stay calm.
When she calms down, you can begin to talk about what it was that made her so angry.
Ask her how she thinks she would like to resolve it. If she doesn’t know, you can say, “Some children might do this to fix the situation. Would that work for you?”
WHAT IF THE PARENT IS LOSING IT?
TIME OUTS are terrific for parents who are losing it and not your child.
Take five when YOU are emotionally flooded. You will be role-modeling a terrific self-management behavior for your child.
In order to reduce your power struggles, try to learn how your child pushes your buttons.
Because, your child knows exactly how to push your buttons.
Download a memorandum from your child that shows you just how well he knows how to push your buttons.
This memorandum will teach you the reason your child is emotionally flooded, which will hopefully reduce parents taking it personally when their child has a meltdown.
And, this memorandum may help you when it’s time to resolve the anger outburst with your child.
Now, I bet you are relieved you can begin to wean yourself away from a time-out with your child. A TIME IN will reduce your power struggles with your child in the immediate as well as in the future.