Many modern day parenting blogs and parenting styles today have come out against all types of corporal punishment (hitting, spanking, slapping, etc.), but have also condemned time out as a shameful experience that isolates young children in a terrifying experience. While I agree that children do not need to be hit in any format to learn to respect the rules, I am fearful that taking away all forms of consequences is going to lead to a generation of children that will have much difficulty adapting to the real world that awaits them. The best place for children to learn consequences is from the people they love rather than teachers, principals, or future employers. The generation now entering college is already reporting a higher degree of anxiety and depression as they don’t find some of the rules of higher education “fair”, and they can’t cope without their parents there to fix everything for them.
Time-out as adults remember them usually involved being sent to your room or being placed in a corner for some period of time. This was used just as punishment but really nothing fruitful came from it. The type of time-out that I advocate and feel can be very beneficial is removing a child from a situation that has gotten out of control and encouraging them to think through a better way to handle the problem that is occurring. This type of time-out gives everyone a small break but also encourages a younger or even older child to be independent in their problem solving skills and starts them on the road to solving issues without the direct guidance of their mom or dad. There is no set time frame to follow other than to have your child come to you when they have come up with a better way to handle the situation they are in. Perhaps they are in a fight with another sibling or talking back inappropriately to a parent. When our own children are asked to take a time-out, they know it means that they need to assess what they are doing and come up with a better method. Sometimes this is done right on the spot and they don’t even remove themselves from the room. Other times they prefer the quiet of their bedroom to think something through and I am constantly impressed with the solutions that they come up with.
As children get older (in our house the ages range from 19 to 9 weeks), time-out becomes more of a breather and a chance for better communication between adults and teenagers. Without the practice in place from very young ages, I know that we would have had a harder time with disagreements with our teenagers. Now, when the conversations aren’t going right, a simple “let’s take a break and come back to this after we have both had some time to think” lets the teenager know that a temporary time-out has been called until better communication can be achieved.
Many people call time-out abrasive and isolating and put themselves under the category of peaceful parenting which implies that time-out is not peaceful. It certainly can be the most peaceful way to settle arguments and one of the most effective ways for children to feel empowered by their ability to solve problems without the help of their parents. This independence starts to pour-over into problems they are having with their school work or issues they might have with friends but they have developed the confidence to settle the dispute. If we are always stepping in and solving problems for our kids, they will begin to develop a learned helplessness that is hard to overcome. Don’t be afraid to challenge them with a time-out that encourages them to be the problem solver rather than the child always looking for a speech from Mom or Dad to fix everything.