Boy With face resting in hands and elbows sadPoop, Shoes and Timeout

Time Magazine online posted an article about timeout that’s worth the read.

Most parents use a “traditional” timeout to correct behavior. But there’s another way parents use timeout, too. A subtle, less traditional method that never announces. “You’re in timeout.” It produces the same results, and is seen by a child as a timeout too. Here are two real life stories that share a child’s perspective about timeout.

The Grocery Store and I have to go poop, NOW
Mom takes her daughters to the grocery story. As soon as they walk in the 5 yr. old says, “Mommy, I have to go poop, now!”

Mom asks, “Can you wait?” The girl says, “No, I really have to go now!”
Mom gets a really angry look on her face, they walk out of the store, get in the car, and drive home. Mom sends the 5 yr. old into the bathroom and says, “Don’t come out till your done!”
By the time they get home the little girl doesn’t have to go. Mom insists that the 5 yr. old sit there, and sit there, and sit there, till she poops. The 5 yr. old sits for about 30 minutes, then begins to cry. The longer she sits, the more scared and panicky she feels. And of course, all of the tension she feels prevents the relaxation needed to go to the bathroom.

The Shoe and The Long Pants
The door bell rings and the 4 yr. old runs to get it. It’s his friends. They want him to come out to play. He asks permission and Mom says, “Sure, go get dressed and then you can go out.” The 4 yr. old is so excited that he puts on his shoes first and then tries to pull his pants over his shoes. The pants get stuck trying to go over the shoes. The 4 yr. old pulls and pulls, but nothing happens. He grunts as he pulls and he hears a rip. Now he’s scared and begins to whine. He hears Mom tell his friends that he’ll meet them at the park in a little while. He wants to go out and play so he tries even harder to get his shoes free, but they’re really stuck. He’s mad and frustrated and begins to yell at the shoes. His frustration and anger turns to panic and he begins to cry. He wonders why his mom won’t help?

This discussion is not an attempt to create a dialog to defend the moms or the kids. There are undisclosed reasons for what the moms did, and for how the kids reacted. My goal in sharing this is to look at another perspective, the child’s perspective when timeout is used in a non-traditional manner. Because for all intents and purposes, those kids were in timeout.

Timeout as defined by the article states, “… timeouts frequently make children angrier and more dysregulated, leaving them even less able to control themselves or think about what they’ve done, and more focused on how mean their parents are to have punished them.”

I think this is worth thinking about. As parents we think of timeout as a specific place to go in order to get yourself together after misbehaving. But for a child, timeout is something else all together.

For a child, timeout is about a feeling. A feeling of being left alone. A feeling of confusion that overrides dealing with the behavior that caused him/her to be sent to timeout. A feeling that stops any clear thinking, or understanding of the logic behind their behavior. When you see things from a child’s perspective, another point of reference appears. As parents we have to realize that the immature point of view a child has about timeout does impact their ability to learn, listen, and understand. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use timeout, although I do believe there are other ways to apply timeout, but that’s another post.

Check to see if you use timeout in other ways
I believe that every parent knows what’s best for their child, and their family. But I also believe in the observation of behavior. I was trained by a student of Magda Gerber, who firmly believed that you observe before you act.

Look to see if you routinely leave your child alone to figure things out?
Do you hold the belief that he or she is old enough by now to figure it out?
Do you leave your upset child alone to think about his/her behavior?

Hopefully this article, and the stories I shared, show you what it feels like from a child’s point of view. And when you feel what a child feels, you tend to change rethink how you want to do things.
Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts about this.
Now go hug your kids.



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