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Time-out Takes Away Your Child's Emotional Security

by Bryan Post


(NC)—One of the most commonly used parenting techniques in current day use throughout schools, homes, and day cares is "time-out". "Time-out" 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 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.

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



Wed, Jul 23, 2008 12:11pm

The world is full of neg. punishments. You touch a stove, you get burned!, you play with a knife, you get cut. This is how we learn. You dont go to work, you get fired. If I dont get up for my job everyday, parents dont bring their kids. They dont just give me hug and keep bringing them.

Sat, Mar 18, 2006 6:34pm

I'm sorry if I offended you by saying that I smack lexie's hand/leg, but I do NOT do it out of anger! It is very VERy hard for anyone to tell another parent how to discipline their kids. In our circumstances, Lexie is learning to crawl and in our entire VERY OLD house, there are only maybe 16 outlets, and only 2 in our living room. She is CoNSTANTLy trying to pull cords out of the wall. (and she always has toys to play with- we keep a basket of toys in our living room) and she will just sit there and ignore you if you are telling her no. A few nights ago, she was sitting in my husbands lap, and would lean over and bite me- only when I wasn't looking, and she bit me about 6 times in a row, so she's very VERY smart, and NEEDS to know that that kind of behavior is uacceptable. Every child is different, and every parent is different, therefore every discipline technique is different. You just have to do what is right for you and your child.

Sat, Mar 18, 2006 4:40am

wow, is this guy even a parent?! I was spanked & I got time outs, but I will admit, I needed it! There are days when Lexie gets her hand swatted, or her leg, not because I don't love her, but because I do, and if she doesn't listen to me, then something WILL happen and she'll end up hurt...I don't do timeouts because she doesn't understand that yet- but at 9mos. she understands the word NO, not because she knows what she's doing will hurt her, but because she knows that I will-lol- *I promise I've never hurt my baby, just her feelings** Using timeouts is a decision every parent will have to make on their own, but they should ask themselves if they were put in time out, did it hurt them??

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