A mom attended a parenting class of mine and left deciding that she didn’t want to use Time Outs as a punishment. Some experts teach that you put kids on Time Out according to their age as a means for them to realize you mean business. I never used this and I never teach parents this approach. I have used a break from interacting as a means to calm down which has a different intention.
So, she stopped using Time Outs to get her kids to behave. She called me up saying that her kids were acting worse without the Time Out tactic. Let’s look at what happened.
My experience about Time Out is based on what my private parenting or class participant parents tell me. I realize there could be another point of view.
Going back to the mom’s story, the set up of what was done and said before Time Out is used is important. This mom focused on a power approach to get her kids to obey. One power approach could sound like this, “Quit hitting your sister. I said, quit hitting your sister, now. OK. Time Out, now.” Giving the command to stop a behavior is a way a parent is trying to use power and control to make their child act differently. This is a power approach.
Using Time Out as a means for a child to feel bad about himself is also a power tactic. If a parent starts out using power to control, they get themselves into a position of having to use power again to try and make sure they are obeyed.
So the mother who just took away Time Out didn’t succeed because she had to also change her original structure setting approach from a hard power approach to a more problem-solving approach.
This could sound like, “It’s not ok to hit your sister. (Go up to the offending child and block the hitting.) I can see you’re upset. Hitting is not allowed. Come here and tell me about it.” Spend time listening and then approach the hitting as a problem to be solved between the two of them. You’ll need to wait until they cool off. Don’t take sides and don’t shame and ridicule. If you do, this will likely lead to the hitter feeling worse about him which could lead to more hitting.
So remember that when you are changing to a more problem-solving approach that the way you set limits and expectations need to be presented as challenges to be solved, not just bad behavior that has to be changed.
©2014 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.