Do you do Time-Out at your place?

Professor Matt Sanders from Triple P advises that Time-Out is a positive strategy for parents. Time-Out has been receiving a bad rap in the parent education field the past few years. And foster carers are not allowed to use Time-Out at all any more.

There are a few good things about it…

–          It gives parents an alternative to smacking and yelling.

–          It gives kids and parents a chance to cool down.

–          In Triple P, time-out lasts no longer than five minutes, and five minutes in the life of a child is not a lot.

–          At the end of time-out, you get on with things – no lectures, recriminations, or apologies. The child has done the time for their crime, end of story.

–          Time-Out helps parents to re-establish control when things have got a bit crazy, perhaps after a time of stress, difficulty, or change when parents have not been able to provide a consistent, predictable family environment.

The thing that I worry about with Time-Out is that it is very addictive for parents because it works so very well. The problem with using Time-Out A LOT is that it is a big disconnect in the parent-child relationship, and children don’t learn very much from it. In Time-Out children also don’t learn the skills to resolve conflict. They don’t learn to calm themselves in situ. They don’t learn relationship repair. Part of our job as parents is to give our kids skills that they can take into adolescence and adulthood so they can be competent citizens, good friends, and caring, supportive, and nurturing partners and parents.

I’ve seen plenty of angry and resentful kids who have spent a lot of time in Time-Out, because every time they look the wrong way they are sent off to their room. And they frequently don’t have a good relationship with their folks. A little bit of Time-Out is OK. A whole lot of  Time-Out is going to backfire on you in the long run – you’ll be wondering why your kids are so surly.

Quite often, Time-Out is used by parents because they don’t have the capacity to control themselves – the very thing they are asking their children to do. Based on the latest findings in brain development, when Time-Out is used with very young children (under 4 years) we are asking them to do something which neuroscientists say they are not yet capable of doing – calming or soothing themselves.

I believe Time-Out is the discipline of last resort. With parenting programmes like Triple P, there are a huge number of positive parenting tools that you can use to steer your kids in the right direction in a timely manner without the need to use Time-Out. At my place, I only use Time-Out for what I call ‘crimes against humanity’, that is being hurtful, violent, or aggressive.

Some parents I have worked with who have problems controlling their anger, give themselves a Time-Out. They tell their kids that they need to go and calm down, and they will come back to repair the relationship when they are feeling better. This is a lot better than ‘losing it’, blaming it on the kids, and regretting the things they have said and done to their kids.

Narelle Smith




Categories: Managing Mistaken Behaviour


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