Saturday, February 20, 2016
Parental discipline means helping our children learn to control themselves. Time Out is a very useful tool for creating space and time to calm down and change a behavior. Changing a behavior takes a little thought process, even for a child. In order to think clearly and be open to change, the child has to calm down and reflect.
"Oh, you must be kidding", you're thinking. "My child becomes more angry and cries louder when I put him in Time Out." Yes, that can happen, until the child learns to accept and use Time Out for their own benefit. I know you think I'm crazy now.
Actually, even though Time Out is a very popular method of controlling behavior problems, you don't have to use it at all. To me, it's a little unnatural and I didn't use it until it fit naturally into the process. When was that? When my daughter was about 6 I remember saying very sternly, "Go to your room now!" because she had done something really mean to her brother. After that, whenever she saw me with that face & tone of voice she ran to her room before I even told her to. Later I would go and have a calm talk with her.
With my youngest, I used to put myself in Time Out so I could calm down enough to deal with him. He was 3 at the time and the type that would have screamed and cried and kept fighting me if I had tried to put him in Time Out. So, I put myself there instead and that used to make him really mad. He would kick and pound at the door to my bedroom while crying, and I would say I'm not coming out until you stop and tell me you're sorry. He had to calm down if he wanted me to come out, and he had to think about what he had done, because he knew I would ask him to tell me what he had done that upset me.
He learned from modeled behavior that when we feel angry or upset the best thing to do is separate ourselves from others so we can calm down. He also learned to think about how his behavior was affecting someone else. That's what I wanted him to learn anyway, and when I came out of time out he always said "sorry Mommy". Children sometimes understand a lot more than we think they do.
Personally I would not use Time Out as my only method of discipline. It is best used to deal with an incident when a child is starting to get upset or angry, or to interrupt a fight. As a parent it's best to keep your cool and just say, "Stop right now, Johnny you sit there, Bobby you sit there (maybe in different rooms) for 5 minutes until you calm down."
The rule is 1 minute per year of the child's age, however I really wouldn't use this before 3 years old. After the Time Out just restate the behavior you expect like, "The rule is no hitting, if you get angry you can leave the room, or come tell Mommy what's wrong." With kids over 6 you can have a little more discussion when necessary. Issues and feelings can get a little more complicated as kids get older, and you want your older children to feel that they can share their problems with you. If you've used Time Out well from 3 to 6 or 7 years old the child should start to use it themselves, naturally seeking a place to calm down and think about things instead of acting out.
Of course that's not the end of the story, there will be other issues and circumstances and you will need other methods to help your children learn how to behave. I hope this has been helpful, please feel free to leave your comments. Next week's topic is Implementing Logical Consequences.
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