How a parent corrects a child’s behavior is always a hotly contested topic. From taking privileges and things away, to using timeout as a calming place, every family does it differently.
There is no “one way” to correct behavior. Parents need the freedom to learn about themselves and their children through the correction choices they make.
My question to you is, do you have all the facts? Have you considered the emotional ramifications of your correction methods? Have you factored in whether or not your correction methods are exacerbating the situation or working toward a solution? Have you considered whether or not your methods are negatively impacting the parent/child relationship, now and possibly in the future.
When Timeouts and Punishments Backfire
I will never forget the pain on one dad’s face as he stood up during a parenting seminar I was giving and said, “My father recently passed away and I’m mad. Not because he passed away, I’m mad because I didn’t get the chance to tell him how much I hated him for sending me to timeout for everything! I must have been sent to timeout 15 times a day; it was like being in jail! The more I was sent to timeout, the more resolved I became not to change my behavior!”
Many parents like the idea of timeout till they use it, then they become frustrated by the results. They see no changes in behavior, just more battles. One mom reported this dilemma. “Every time I have to put my daughter in timeout it’s a battle . . . I mean a big battle. She hits, kicks, pinches . . .”
There is a reason why children react the way they do to being punished or sent to timeout to correct their behavior. Psychotherapist Lisa M. of Barefoot Barn says it perfectly: “. . . using isolation, fear, and punishment doesn’t work for nurturing our children to be compassionate, empathetic, and confident kiddos.”
In order for a child to learn how to change his/her behavior, you, the parent, need to take an honest look at the intensity and attitude that you bring to the method(s) you’re using.
• If you’re angry and yell as you send your child to timeout, he’ll shift his focus from listening and learning to focusing on the fact that you’re yelling.
• If threatening is your go-to way to correct behavior, your child is learning to tolerate your threats instead of learning the skills needed to manage herself.
• If you attempt to correct or punish your child for crying or having a tantrum, she doesn’t experience the step-down process of her emotions. Kids need to learn that even big emotions do subside.
A Mindful Teaching Approach
Many parents realize that what they’re doing to correct behavior isn’t working but keep doing it because they don’t know what else to do.
What else can you try? It’s been proven over and over again that the key to helping a child learn about herself and the world around her is for her to experience the results of her actions.
Using a mindful authority to let your child reap the consequences of her choices, helps her understand what she’s supposed to do, instead of focusing on what she’s done.
All children learn best by seeing the correlation between a mistake and fixing the mistake. They learn they’re responsible for their actions and for making it better, even when they don’t want to. That creates instant and long term results at the same time.
Taking privileges or things away usually causes a big reaction and causes a child to promise the parent anything in order to get back whatever was taken away. There’s no self-discovery or learning taking place. However, if taking things away is working for your child, then don’t stop doing that. I have one rule in parenting, if it’s working, and it’s not emotionally harmful, then keep doing it.
Instead of rushing to send a child to timeout, let time, not timeout, work for you. This also helps you when daily life has you too busy to teach your child about his/her behavior right-this-minute. Maybe you’re busy with another child, too angry at the moment, or have no idea how you want to handle things. If that’s the case, have your child go sit somewhere, it can be in her room or beside you on the couch. This is not a timeout, it’s so you know where she is when you’re ready to talk.
While she’s sitting, have her think about or write down her version of what happened, what she should have done instead, and how she plans to repair things. This method creates a habit of thinking things through and allows you both to discuss the impact of her behavior, and the best way to make amends, versus simply rushing to punishment.
This method is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for kids. Believe me, reviewing the situation is emotional and challenging for kids. If you don’t agree with his plan, make him aware of the details he’s skipped over and work together to make a new plan.
This method allows you to be mindful yet authoritative, and calm instead of reactive. Make sure you stay connected; give hugs, you can even offer to accompany her as she makes amends.
Now that’s what I call teaching!
Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and founder of Proactive Parenting dot net. She’s also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Transform Behavior into Learning Moments.