December 4, 2023

Parenting: Time Out — Discipline Parents Can Rely On

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any  honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” Rose Kennedy

“Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who tread on their toes.” Chinese Proverb

Question: what should happen when children break a rule or do not do what they are told?

Answer: Unfortunately for many parents this answer often starts with STOPPING! That is, STOP talking to them, STOP trying to convince them that they will be better off if they cooperate. STOP the ongoing and prolonged attempts to get then to understand. Pay attention — you will likely observe your child rapidly tuning you out.

Lectures are rarely helpful; the same lecture over and over even less so. One adult recently told me how, as a child, she grew the ability to tune dad out. Parents do not want this as an outcome.

Your children want your guidance; they want to know their limits.  At the most basic level, children know they don’t have mature  judgment to safely try a new behavior. Again, watch closely and you will see a child look towards their mother or father before trying something. They are checking out facial expression to see if they ought to be on alert.

Internationally known child rearing expert Ron Taffel says, “There should be a consequence every time they do not reasonably cooperate or they violate a rule.”

Remember punishment must not be physically, mentally or emotionally painful. Punishment is what you do that will reduce negative behavior.

WORDS: Don’t get caught up with the use of words. When words are involved, it opens the possibility of a debate. Parents may ironically note the debating child is learning how to be a good attorney. A debate contradicts the principle that a parent is in charge. Equally important, as a debate goes on, the child gets a great deal of attention (exactly what he/she wants) for the uncooperative behavior. The talking actually reinforces unwanted behavior.

Time Out: Kids 2-12 want your attention! Regardless of any secondary gain, such as ice cream or privilege, they want/need to get a parent’s awareness first.

Time Out: an abbreviation for time away from reinforcement. The idea is simple: find a boring place the child must go to and must stay for a specific time period.

Time Out Spot:

  • A place the child will not enjoy. Find a space that will be boring with minimum attention. It is often a corner of a less used room.
  • Do not use a child’s room. Some kids have an electronic paradise in their rooms. They won’t get your attention here, but there is plenty to distract from the connection of what they did wrong. Their room, at its best, is a space to enjoy not associate with
  • Do not use: any place that may be considered cruel, such as small dark closet or back porch on a cold winter day.

Time Out Time Frame:

  • 1 to 6 consecutive minutes, depending on age
  • Start by using one-half of child’s age for minutes
  • Example: Age 6 = 3 minutes. If there is difficulty implementing, generally speaking adjust the time frame downward. For instance sometimes 1 minute might just be too long for a 2 year old. There is no evidence that longer times are more effective.

Time Out Process:

  1. Child misbehaves:  Present matter-of-factly — what he did wrong and the consequence.  You did not obey me. Go to Time Out.
  2. Child remains quiet in time out. The catch — child must stay in Time Out and be reasonably quiet for the desired timeframe or time starts over. In early stages of learning Time Out, some children may have to be physically restrained.
  3. Ignore any words. This is necessary and it’s hard for parents to do. A child might say, I hate you or you’re mean. The brightest children seem to say I like this, which entices some parents to stop using Time Out very early. Why should you care even if your child truly likes Time Out? You want to ask instead: Did it help (over time) decrease negative behavior? Are you getting the desired outcome?
  4. Do not ignore if the child leaves Time Out. Restrain him/her with minimum words and minimum physical attention.
  5. Leaving Time Out:  After your child is quiet, for the required time period, simply say he can leave Time Out. If he still has a task to complete, restate the command.
  6. Immediately: Use Time Out as soon as negative behavior occurs.
  7. Repeat as needed.

Cooperation Sequence:

  1. To start a process, tell don’t ask.
  2. If they do not do it, reprimand.
  3. If Reprimand does not work, use Time Out.
  4. Always praise any good effort or success.

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Next week: Ignoring, the punishment many parents do not understand.