It goes by a million names. “Time out”, “Go to your room”, “stand in the corner”, “sit in the time out chair”… The list goes on and on. What ever phrase you use to send your child away when they are misbehaving is what we are talking about.
About 30+ years ago, in an attempt to get parents to step away from spanking, “time out” was introduced. The goal was to have children sit in time out, so that they weren’t getting parental interaction and so they could take time to work through what they were upset about. It is now a common parenting practice that when children disobey, start to cause problems, and refuse to listen, that we send them away to be alone, in a time out.
But, The next time you are ready to send your children to a time out, take a minute to think about a few things. Time outs aren’t nearly as helpful as we think they are. Nor do they strengthen our relationships with our kids or teach them long term skills that are helpful as adults. (Now, don’t misunderstand, there are obviously times when distance and space is necessary, but here are a few things to think about. A new perspective.)
First, when we send our kids to time out, we are sending a message that how they feel doesn’t matter. We are telling them we don’t care about how they feel, we want them to shut their feelings off and go away.
Second, sending kids to time out sends a message that you want your children to get away from you. (I know, sometimes we really do feel this way, but…) This message says “I don’t care about you, please leave.” Our children need to feel love and when we send them away, the last thing they feel is love.
Lastly, time outs don’t teach our children to deal with their problems. By sending them to be on their own, they don’t get any help learning how to manage their feelings and emotions. By acting out, it shows they already don’t know how to handle how they are feeling and the situation they are dealing with. Sending them to time out doesn’t help them learn to manage anything.
This might sound silly, but let me suggest an alternative to a “time out”. It is time for a “Time In.”
What is a “time in”? A “time in” is gathering your child into your arms and giving them a big hug, instead of sending them away. When their behavior is horrible, when they start throwing a fit, or they hit, or they won’t listen, instead of sending them to their rooms, go to them, get down on their level, and gather them up in your lap and hold them. Just sit and hold them. As you wrap your arms around them, let them experience the feelings. Let them be angry or sad. And let them say what they want to say.
How are you going to hug a child that is causing so much trouble? Entertain a new perspective…Maybe they are throwing a fit, or talking back. But think of it this way. Instead of getting angry, think… my child must be really really upset to be acting out this way. They must be hurting in some way. Distraught in some way to be willing to throw the fit and talk back. So instead of sending them away, realize that they are in some sort of distress and are just asking, in fact yelling, for help. Simply changing our perspective will make us want to keep our children near instead of sending them away.
Imposing a “time in” will show your child how much you love them. It teaches them you want to be connected and care about how they are feeling. It also gives you an opportunity to teach them how to deal with their emotions and feelings.
Now, it might not work right away. You might try to hug or hold your child and they pull away, or fight or yell “don’t touch me”. That is okay. It will take time for your child to accept this new practice also. Don’t quit. Stay close to your child, and express “you are having a hard time right now aren’t you. That is okay, let me hold you and we can talk about it.”
Remember that as you are working through a “time in” with your child, they will have a hard time expressing themselves for fear it might get them in trouble. Be open to their true thoughts and allow them to be honest. The more they push you away, the more they need you to stay close. Just continue to stay as close as they will let you and ensure them that you won’t leave them alone, feeling this way.
SO… the next time you are ready to call for a time out, STOP, don’t send them away. Instead, wrap your arms around your child, hold them close and give him/her a minute to regroup, feel loved and understood, and start over. Let the love pour out over them and watch their behavior change. In fact, you will see much greater and more successful results by disciplining with “time in’s” than “time outs”.
When it comes to discipline, love will always prevail.
When was the last time your child was misbehaving and you gave them a big hug instead of getting mad at them?
Do you think it would be hard to use “time in’s” instead of “time out’s”?