Friday, February 11, 2011

Rethinking Time Outs

Repurposed from Momlogic.com December 10, 2010

When the kicking, screaming and other tantrum-y behaviors start, the easy fix is often a threat (or an order) to go to time-out. But according to parenting expert Kimberley Clayton Blaine, author of the new book "The Go-To Mom's Parents' Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children," too many
time-outs may be ineffective at best -- and downright harmful at worst. Blaine says that young children
simply don't understand the concept, and that kids who are subjected to repeated time-outs may develop poor emotional control because they are left alone without support and validation when they need it most.

"The misuse of a time-out is not only punishing but also alienating, and may spark a long-term physiological response," explains Blaine, a licensed family and child therapist and the mother of
two boys. "In a worst-case scenario, they could internalize the emotional pain in order to cope, which can eventually turn into early-childhood depression. Empathy is truly the foundation for effective parenting, and it is also necessary in creating a stronger bond between parent and child. Time-outs are the antithesis of that." Blaine advocates an alternate method that takes into account a child's
developmental limitations and that serves as guidance rather than punishment. For babies 2 and under, Blaine recommends distraction and redirection. At this age, your baby is simply too young to understand the concept of a thinking time; instead, give him a new item of interest or move
him to an exciting location.

For children over 2, she suggests using a "cool-down" or "thinking time" instead. Not only is this method gentle, it keeps the parent by the child's side to help him learn to calm himself down and think through what happened.

Here's how to do it:
Get down at your child's level. Be sure to maintain good eye contact; give a warning and ask if what he is doing is "OK or not OK."

If your child doesn't calm down or stop the unacceptable behavior, then lead him to a "quiet area" or "thinking area." Sit with him and offer assistance and love. Remember, this is not a punishment.

Be aware that time is not important; having your child calm down is. Disregard the "one minute times your child's age" rule. Don't give a 5-year-old five minutes to think; sometimes the older child needs only a minute or two to come up with a better solution.

On the other hand, a  younger child may need to cuddle or sit with you for ten minutes until
he's calm.  As you're sitting there, empathize, validate and reflect what you see.
An understood child is less likely to be fraught.

Once your child is calm, ask him to tell you what's wrong or what's going on. Restate the problem again more clearly if he has difficulty. Ask your child, "What will you do differently next time?" Name the expected behavior if he doesn't know.

Thank your child for helping you come up with a solution. It's important that he hear this positive reinforcement.

Set the expectation for the future by wrapping up with, "If you don't listen next time, what will happen?"

Inform your child that you will take actions to help and that you will not
tolerate unacceptable behavior.

Moms, what do you think about this advice? Are you for or against time-outs?

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