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Is Time-Out Really Any Different Than The Dunce Chair?

by B. Bryan Post PhD, LCSW


 


(NC)-Can you recall the times when the misbehaving child in school had to wear the dunce hat and sit on the bar stool in the front of the class? I remember. It was in the first grade. I think the students name was Will. Though I don't recall the hat, I do recall the chair.

What was the underlying goal of the dunce chair? To get the child to think about his behavior. This sounds very familiar to another widely practiced approach toward child behavior correction, time-out. In a recent article I wrote that Time-Out Sucks.Away Your Child's Emotional Security (see www.postinstitute.com/ newscanada.html). I would like to share further some thoughts on why time-out is not a good idea for use with children and how a better alternative, time-in is more effective and ultimately more positive in helping children build positive self-esteem.

Typically when a child is misbehaving his internal stress system is in a state of high arousal. When this high arousal is met with a demand for isolation, a.k.a. time-out, the child experiences an immediate sense of fear which typically drives shame and embarrassment. Forty years ago shaming and embarrassing a child was a widely accepted and commonly practiced approach for behavior correction. Forty years later, how many adults do you know that are easily shamed, embarrassed, and have a low sense of self-esteem? Unfortunately we rarely give thought to what our seemingly benign actions maybe fostering twenty years down the road.

Shame, isolation, and withdrawal of affection do not help children become independent, responsible adults. Rather, the modeling of independence and responsibility through support, understanding, concern and cooperation, teaches children over time how to be in the world in a responsible and independent way.

Rather than practicing time-out, practice time-in. When your child is acting out, be responsible and bring him in to you for ten minutes. Acknowledge that he seems to be having a really difficult time managing the world as he sees it in that moment, and you want to help him feel supported and understood by coming to sit or work next to you for awhile. This will ultimately help the child sooth his anxious state, thereby reengage his thinking processes and help him to see the world from a clearer place.

B. Bryan Post, PhD, LCSW is the co-founder of Beyond Consequences Institute www.beyondconsequences.com.


Comments

1 Comments

Wed, Jul 23, 2008 12:05pm

I agree w/ amandale. Found this article interesting. Basically saying you are repressing your child by giving them a neg. punishment when they are misbehaving. I'm wondering if society has gotten to far into this whole "don't hurt your child's ego" philosophy. Part of me understands it b/ the other part wonders if we don't give them a chance for punishment then when they become adults, wont they expect constant positive reinforcement and not know how to handle it when they don't get it?
 


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