Time outs are one of those child behavior techniques that we may have started using because they have been a popular tool for generations. We may have even experienced a time out ourselves as kids. Or we may have started implementing them as a behavior management strategy because other parents suggest that they work. But time outs are not helpful in solving behavior challenges productively. Let’s explore why.
Why time outs don’t work.
Often parents use time outs when their child has misbehaved or is having a hard time managing their emotions. They may just tell them to go and sit in a corner- oftentimes for 1 minute for every year of age. Sometimes a parent may suggest they think about what they’ve done wrong. Even if we don’t say it, oftentimes we expect that this will be reflection time for them.
Firstly, even getting kids into the time out spot can cause lots of issues. Kids can resist it and then rebel against it once they are in their designated spot. If they’re spending time getting out of the spot they are in no way thinking about their behavior.
Time outs can make kids feel like mom and dad don’t want them around when they misbehave or are having trouble handling their emotions. This means, while their emotions are already high from the meltdown which got them in there in the first place, they are becoming even higher from their parent’s response.
The time out also feels like isolation and rejection. Isolation from the people they need the most whilst they are struggling. They are sitting in time out feeling angry, upset and frustrated, and not thinking about what they did wrong or how they can make a better choice next time. This makes time outs a more of a punishment than a consequence.
Punishments are about making kids suffer for what happened, where as consequences are about kids learning from what they did wrong. That is why, here at Building Confident Families we always suggest natural or logical consequences. When we choose time outs though we are not using either type of consequence because it doesn’t relate to their misbehavior. Let’s think about some reason’s a child might get put in time out – hitting, yellng at parents, tantrums or meltdowns. Is there any relationship between sittiing in a corner and that behavior?
A better alternative to time outs.
Next time your kids misbehave and their emotions are incredibly high, let’s make a change. Give them a nice cozy and calm place they can go to calm down. Whether that is sitting with you or somewhere they can go and sit on their own. You could even set up a space in your home that is used for this purpose – a special area or a cushion or chair they can pull out when they need it.
Giving them this pace to calm down and feel better is incredibly important. When kids feel better they do better. They are also more receptive to hearing you and learning.
Although having a cozy spot to calm down is great for kids, we don’t need to send them away when they are having trouble handling their emotions. We can be there with them as they calm down. While being there we are modelling to them how to calm down. We are, after all, our kids biggest teachers. Children also learn best when they have a strong and secure connection to their parents. Supporting them and helping them calm down continues that connection, where as time outs break it.
We hope this helps you change the way you handle some of your behavior challenges with your kids, now that you know time outs are unhelpful. If you feel you need more help and individualized support, please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation. We’d love to help you!