enlighten me - what's wrong with time outs? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is an honest question - not intended to be snotty or provoking...

I was reading another thread and it seems the general consensus here is that time out is some huge evil.

I don't see how, when my son does something I've asked, then told, then warned not to do, it is bad for him for me to sit him down next to me for two minutes (one minute per year of age). He is told when he is put in time out why he's there. After the 2 minutes are up, I ask him, "Do you know why were you in time out?" and he says "hitting Cara" (for example - he's really rough with our dog and he needs to learn to be gentle with animals - not to mention I don't want him pushing our very gentle dog to the point of biting because he's so rough with her). I then discuss it with him briefly, tell him I love him, and ask him to not do it again. We end with a kiss and a hug.

It's not violent. It's not mean. And he does learn from it. I could see how making them sit with their nose in a corner (or anywhere away from parents) would be damaging to their psyche, but to sit next to the parent and be told they are still loved even though their action wasn't acceptable...how is that harmful to them?

Please clarify! I sincerely want to know.
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#2 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 07:23 PM
 
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:

Figured I'd start with one anyway, because I've been flamed before. I'm not the MOST AP mom be far, but I do my best to be.

I don't see any problem with time outs, especially if the child is getting out of hand and needs a moment to cool down. I believe that sometimes children need to be reminded to slow down and get themselves together again.
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#3 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 07:50 PM
 
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I'm interested in the responses that you get...

I have a friend who will put her child (almost 4) in "the naughty corner." I don't think that's useful approach to time out, particularly when he has to go there for a transgression committed elsewhere and this is delayed punishment upon arriving home

That's very different from what you described, which sounds like a cool down period followed by a rational, loving discussion on how people are to behave in your house (ie no hitting the dog). I think like anything else it can be used appropriately or not, though I think with young children the "cool down" period may serve to separate the action from the lesson too much, so they have difficulty applying what you are talking about to what they did. With an older child I think it can be valuable to cool off before discussing something, but toddlers can't rationalize (duh ). It may be more useful to just immediately have the discussion without the timeout. (wow, I"m feeling very ineloquent and like I'm talking in circles...just thinking out loud I guess)

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#4 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:13 PM
 
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I do sometimes ask my children to take a break which sometimes involves spending time by themselves or with a parent, calming down, but we don't do a typical time out the way time-out proponents describe them. In general, I try to be non-punitive, emphasize natural consequences whenever possible, and in general I try to avoid giving in to the feeling ingrained in me by my parents' generation and their parents' generation that I have to "nip it in the bud". I have my not-so-great days (today was a hormonal tired grumpy pregnant biotch of a mama ) but in general I try to be gentle with myself as well as with my kids, and remember that we're all people who deserve to be treated with respect. Personally, I don't find the typical time-out methods to be very respectful of children.

I try not to label my children's behavior as "bad" and especially not label the children themselves as "naughty" or "hellions" or "brats," etc. In general I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to see things from their perspective, then help provide information that will guide their future behavior. That's how I'd want somebody to treat me if I did something that they saw as inappropriate - educate me, not punish me. (After all, "discipline" means educating, not punishing.)

This article is a good place to start on understanding another perspective on time-out:
The Case Against Time-Out. The site that hosts it, The Natural Child Project, has a lot of other articles that are very helpful in re-framing how adults and children interact.

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know  - e.e. cummings
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#5 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:16 PM
 
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I sort of have a question about this also. I do : put my child in his room for a time out occasionally. I feel that some of the time he is acting up because he doesn't want me to do what I am doing, (ie the dishes, making dinner, etc.) and wants my attention so he does things that are disruptive. I put him in time out away from me and then bring him out and sit down with him and explain that he does not get my attention in that way and he should ask nicely and not (hit the dog, throw the car, etc.) and I would be happy to stop what I am doing. I feel if I sat down with him for a time out at that moment it would kind of defeat the purpose because he would be getting exactly what he wanted by being disruptive, IYKWIM.

And to be completely honest, sometimes I need the "time out" and we both would be better off with a moment of separation.

I am also looking for realistic options to avoid the time out situation and open to workable solutions.

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#6 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:21 PM
 
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IMO it's random and parent imposed. It is a punishment.

I think that discussion and natural consequences make more sense and work better.

-Angela
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#7 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:21 PM
 
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Meant to add - most gentle discipline folks seem to agree that using a "naughty corner" or "naughty step" or having children put their nose against the wall or other similar strategies are shaming and punitive. The goal here is to teach children that a) their actions have negative consequences, and b) that their actions were socially inappropriate. I believe that the first goal can be met by the parent pointing out the natural consequences of their action, and the second goal can also be met through ongoing dialogue between parent and child, as well as modeling appropriate behavior.

The only time I ever do something time-out-ish is when one of my children is acting in a way that's very very disruptive (screaming that won't stop, thrashing/kicking/hitting, etc) and other methods have not helped. If I cannot determine a need that can be met, and they won't accept parental comfort, and nothing else works, then I invite them to please take a break in another room, take their time to calm down, and when they're ready to rejoin us, they're welcome to do so. I've noticed that my older son has recently started to go off on his own sometimes when he's grumpy and just can't bring himself to play nicely with the rest of us. When he's feeling less grumpy, he comes back. I'm really thrilled that he can identify when he's feeling antisocial and deal with it appropriately - just like my husband or I might take a moment alone to regroup and get the grumpies out.

I do think that sometimes people need a little time alone when they feel grumpy, I just don't think that time should be forced and isolating, and definitely not shaming/punitive. I also don't think time alone is the answer to *all* social missteps.

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#8 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by alegna View Post
IMO it's random and parent imposed. It is a punishment.

I think that discussion and natural consequences make more sense and work better.

-Angela
So, based on this, I should just sit there and gently tell my 2 year old son to not hit the dog and explain that she doesn't like it and might bite him. And then, when he doesn't listen, let him suffer the consequence of the dog getting fed up with being picked on and subsequently biting him? And then I have to suffer the consequence of my husband killing my precious dog (no, she's not more important than my child, but I do love her dearly!) when it wasn't her 'fault' - she simply reacted to being hit, pinched, fur pulled etc.

Am I misunderstanding this?
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#9 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ethan*sMom View Post
So, based on this, I should just sit there and gently tell my 2 year old son to not hit the dog and explain that she doesn't like it and might bite him. And then, when he doesn't listen, let him suffer the consequence of the dog getting fed up with being picked on and subsequently biting him? And then I have to suffer the consequence of my husband killing my precious dog (no, she's not more important than my child, but I do love her dearly!) when it wasn't her 'fault' - she simply reacted to being hit, pinched, fur pulled etc.

Am I misunderstanding this?
At two if your son can not resist the urge to hit the dog, it's your responsibility to keep he and the dog apart.

-Angela
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#10 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:34 PM
 
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I feel that some of the time he is acting up because he doesn't want me to do what I am doing,
What happens if you invite him to join you, and offer a task that he can handle? My kids get rammy when I'm cooking dinner, but they usually have their attention needs met if I get out the cutting board and allow them to sample veggies or help chop (4.5 y/o can use a paring knife with supervision, 2 y/o gets a dull butter knife), or invite them to stir, or help put away the lids of sippy cups, etc.

If they don't want to join me at my task, and the task really does have to be done, I simply tell them that. They don't have to be happy with it. It's ok for them to express that they don't like it. I draw the line when those expressions are disruptive or harmful - like hitting me, or screaming at the top of their lungs. When those things happen, I generally recognize their feelings, help them to label those feelings, and then invite them to either express them in a way that doesn't hurt people, or take a break until they can calm down. Often just having their feelings identified/recognized helps and then they're ready to play by themselves or help me. I also often ask how I can help them. Sometimes they just need help to find a toy to play with, or they need a hug to be offered, and then they can move on.


Part of the key, for me, is to ask myself what would happen if I were in their shoes. I have grumpy times. How would I want my husband to respond to me? Would I want to be punished for feeling tired and hormonal? Or would it be nicer for somebody to offer a hug and invite me to join them? If my husband is nice to me when I'm grouchy, would that be considered "positive reinforcement" for me treating him poorly? So much of what we say about children really doesn't make sense if we apply it to any other interpersonal situation. Kids are people, too!

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know  - e.e. cummings
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#11 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 09:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ethan*sMom View Post
So, based on this, I should just sit there and gently tell my 2 year old son to not hit the dog and explain that she doesn't like it and might bite him. And then, when he doesn't listen, let him suffer the consequence of the dog getting fed up with being picked on and subsequently biting him? And then I have to suffer the consequence of my husband killing my precious dog (no, she's not more important than my child, but I do love her dearly!) when it wasn't her 'fault' - she simply reacted to being hit, pinched, fur pulled etc.

Am I misunderstanding this?
I think perhaps you are. There's a lot that a parent can do between just explaining to a 2 y/o not to hit the dog, and putting the 2 y/o in time-out. You could assist him in using gentle hands, you could talk about how much the dog likes it when he pets gently (natural consequence of using gentle pats), you could encourage the dog to move away from the child, you could distract the child, etc etc etc.

Nobody would ever advocate that you allow a 2 y/o to be bitten.

may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know  - e.e. cummings
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#12 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 11:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by hubris View Post
What happens if you invite him to join you, and offer a task that he can handle? My kids get rammy when I'm cooking dinner, but they usually have their attention needs met if I get out the cutting board and allow them to sample veggies or help chop (4.5 y/o can use a paring knife with supervision, 2 y/o gets a dull butter knife), or invite them to stir, or help put away the lids of sippy cups, etc.

If they don't want to join me at my task, and the task really does have to be done, I simply tell them that. They don't have to be happy with it. It's ok for them to express that they don't like it. I draw the line when those expressions are disruptive or harmful - like hitting me, or screaming at the top of their lungs. When those things happen, I generally recognize their feelings, help them to label those feelings, and then invite them to either express them in a way that doesn't hurt people, or take a break until they can calm down. Often just having their feelings identified/recognized helps and then they're ready to play by themselves or help me. I also often ask how I can help them. Sometimes they just need help to find a toy to play with, or they need a hug to be offered, and then they can move on.


Part of the key, for me, is to ask myself what would happen if I were in their shoes. I have grumpy times. How would I want my husband to respond to me? Would I want to be punished for feeling tired and hormonal? Or would it be nicer for somebody to offer a hug and invite me to join them? If my husband is nice to me when I'm grouchy, would that be considered "positive reinforcement" for me treating him poorly? So much of what we say about children really doesn't make sense if we apply it to any other interpersonal situation. Kids are people, too!

I so agree! My son is often "helping" me do the dishes, make the bed, make dinner. I just wanted to explain that I rarely use "time outs" and it is in those situations where it is getting disruptive or harmful. I have no problem letting and helping him to express his feelings.

Anyone have trouble with their dh using or wanting to use different tactics for discipline? I guess that is a whole new thread though... My hubby overuses time outs IMO and he has a hard time expressing his feelings. He had a shoddy childhood with a mom that was the "children should be seen and not heard era". She really thinks I am WAY too easy on my child because I don't spank him or pull his hair when he pulls mine. Thankfully dh isn't too keen on spanking or the such. I guess we just need to really sit down and have that discussion thoroughly.

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#13 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 11:49 PM
 
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I dont give time outs but we do sometimes take a break when my ds gets to wild.. he is only 13 months so i go with him of course.. i tell him gently that we need to claim down and i talk to him and we nurse relax and after afew min we go back to whatever it was and he is fine.. not sure it would work for an older toddler

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#14 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 11:50 PM
 
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I think perhaps you are. There's a lot that a parent can do between just explaining to a 2 y/o not to hit the dog, and putting the 2 y/o in time-out. You could assist him in using gentle hands, you could talk about how much the dog likes it when he pets gently (natural consequence of using gentle pats), you could encourage the dog to move away from the child, you could distract the child, etc etc etc.

Nobody would ever advocate that you allow a 2 y/o to be bitten.
Well put.

-Angela
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#15 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 11:50 PM
 
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"IMO it's random and parent imposed. It is a punishment."

What does "parent imposed" mean?
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#16 of 185 Old 06-08-2007, 11:55 PM
 
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Part of the key, for me, is to ask myself what would happen if I were in their shoes. I have grumpy times. How would I want my husband to respond to me? Would I want to be punished for feeling tired and hormonal? Or would it be nicer for somebody to offer a hug and invite me to join them? If my husband is nice to me when I'm grouchy, would that be considered "positive reinforcement" for me treating him poorly? So much of what we say about children really doesn't make sense if we apply it to any other interpersonal situation. Kids are people, too!
I donot have a lot of experience yet, but I am still doing the routine with my 21 month old that I did when she was younger. When she cried when little I checked if she was hungry, needed a diaper, wanted to be held etc. And a lot of times that still works when she is acting out now at 21 months.

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#17 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:13 AM
 
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In the specific instance of a 2-year-old and an animal, I'm finding that my DD is learning to be far more gentle with the pets since I did this:

1. Reminding her of gentle hands - standing near (or over) DD and saying "gentle, gentle" as she pets the animals.

2. Guiding gentle hands - if she gets too excited, I will physically guide her hands to remind her.

3. If she is not gentle, I pick her up, move her away, and say "you weren't gentle with the cat - now she doesn't want to play with you" and guide her to another activity. When I started this, I didn't move her away at the first "transgression" - I'd give her a chance to be gentle. But now she's a little older, first transgression means that she's moved away from the animal.

4. I work hard to ensure that animals and toddler are not together unsupervised.

5. I give DD jobs to do with the animals - it's her "job" to fill the cat's bowls and get cookies for the dog. She takes it quite seriously and directs the cats to their bowls and has learned to tell the dog to "sit" before the cookie. This is great because she is enjoying the interaction with the animals without laying on hands :-)

I've found this really works well. There are no timeouts, but there are consequences for not being gentle. IMO, the same principles can be applied to most situations - it just takes some thought and creative solutions. Timeouts, for me, are for when kids have lost control of their emotions and who need a breather - and not as a punishment.

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#18 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:19 AM
 
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"IMO it's random and parent imposed. It is a punishment."

What does "parent imposed" mean?
Exactly what it says. Imposed by the parents. Parents making up a random punishment for an action.

-Angela
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#19 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:22 AM
 
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I have not read all replies yet so forgive me if someone covered this.... but my understanding is that time out threatens childern with one of their biggest fears, being seperated from their parents. It starts to build insecurity in the relationship. The child can no longer trust that the caregiver/parent will always be there for him/her and the attachment relationship starts to disintergrate.

Anyway gotta go take the kiddo outside.
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#20 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:26 AM
 
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I find time outs to be necessary when 1 child is attacking the other, so you need to sequester the attacker to comfort the attacked. If they go willingly, great, but if one child if being violent and refuses togo upstairs, I will close them in my room while I tend to the victim, then I promptly go talk to the perpetrator.

I don't think I'd use time outs with an only child... I only do so I can comfort the attcked one in a way that makes them feel safe (the attacker out of the picture for a few minutes).
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#21 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:37 AM
 
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Exactly what it says. Imposed by the parents. Parents making up a random punishment for an action.
I understand this in young children who cannot comprehend how a time out is related to putting things in the toilet, for example.

But, what about in older children who can reason? When does it become appropriate to say "if you do x when I ask you not too, then y will happen"?

And if the "punishment" is consistent, how is it random? If the same thing happens every time (loosing a privilege, like TV, or going to the park).

I KNEW when I was kid that if I did something wrong I wasn't allowed to ride my horse. There were no "random" punishments, and honestly, I can see how that would be confusing to a child. But if the consequences are consistent...

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#22 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have not read all replies yet so forgive me if someone covered this.... but my understanding is that time out threatens childern with one of their biggest fears, being seperated from their parents. It starts to build insecurity in the relationship. The child can no longer trust that the caregiver/parent will always be there for him/her and the attachment relationship starts to disintergrate.

Anyway gotta go take the kiddo outside.
Well, if that's it, then what I perceive/do as time out is fine (for us) since DS is not separated from me. He's usually no more than 2 or 3 feet away. He is not treated in a demeaning manner, nor is he physically hurt. He knows I'm right there the whole time.

Hope you had lots of fun outside!
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#23 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 12:55 AM
 
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I think you have to look at the intent sometimes. Is removing the child from the dog the goal? If so, why couldn't you just go to another room? Is giving the child a chance to calm down the goal? What happens if the child isn't calm by the time the timer goes off? Or is calm well before?

Most of the time it seems that time-outs are designed to make the child wish they hadn't done whatever it was.

Especially for AP parents, it seems so strange to me to spend all this time building the attachment and trust and then using that against the child--taking it away when they've done something that displeases us.

Punishment, in general, doesn't teach the kind of lessons I want to teach my kids. I don't want to set up that whole adversarial relationship and have them worry more about being caught than doing the right thing. I prefer to explain things to them and give them tools to meet their needs.

Anyway, a good read on time-outs is this:

http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/peter_haiman.html

Or Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting.
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#24 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:07 AM
 
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I didn't have time to say this earlier since my kiddo was patiently waiting for me to finish posting so i could take him out to the garden (and he is only 18 mos!), but i was talking about time outs as a form of behavior modification. Time outs that are removing yourself or your child from a dangerous situation are fine as far as i can tell. Routine time outs that are designed to punish bad behavior could damage the parent/caregiver child relationship. Hold onto your kids has more info about this i think.
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#25 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:11 AM
 
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I understand this in young children who cannot comprehend how a time out is related to putting things in the toilet, for example.

But, what about in older children who can reason? When does it become appropriate to say "if you do x when I ask you not too, then y will happen"?

And if the "punishment" is consistent, how is it random? If the same thing happens every time (loosing a privilege, like TV, or going to the park).

I KNEW when I was kid that if I did something wrong I wasn't allowed to ride my horse. There were no "random" punishments, and honestly, I can see how that would be confusing to a child. But if the consequences are consistent...
I think the older kid they could still feel hurt by the time out. Kids (even older kids) desperately want approval from their parents so the time out could be percieved as a removal of acceptance and love because the child did something they shouldn't have. I remember i used to feel hurt and ashamed by time outs.
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#26 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:24 AM
 
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I am a time out advocate. I find it to be a very effective and gentle tool for the big problem behaviors that don't have acceptable natural consequences. I've become sort of a broken record on this in the Gentle Discipline folder but one of the things I think time outs work very well for is violent behavior. Hurting someone else is not ok and should be addressed immediately. For me, the way to address that kind of behavior is with time outs and it's been very effective. I believe it would also be effective for most kids.

We're here to help our children figure out how this world works and how they can best work in their world, you know? A person is only a child for 1/5 of their life, if that, and while it's a very important part of their life, the adult version of our children should be a big priority and I don't want to leave my kiddo wondering how to behave in various situations. Time outs are just one tool a parent can use to help a child figure out what's ok and what's not.

Edited to add: I thought I should add how exactly we do our time outs. For example, if my son hits the cat or whatever, I immediately react by picking him up and sitting him in a chair in the dining room (a central room in our home). I kneel down and explain to him that he is getting a time out because he hit the cat (important to be specific about this so he can understand) and that he must sit in the chair for 3 minutes. Then I set the timer and walk away. I'm usually either in the kitchen or sitting out int he living room, both are within eyeshot. When the timer goes off, I kneel down in front of him again and I ask him if he understands why he's in time out. We talk about hitting the cat, is that an ok thing or no? What can we do next time the cat frustrates us (can you tell the cat vs. boy thing is an ongoing issue in my home? ), like saying "I'm mad!" or whatever. Then we hug and that's that.
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#27 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:31 AM
 
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I find time outs to be necessary when 1 child is attacking the other, so you need to sequester the attacker to comfort the attacked. If they go willingly, great, but if one child if being violent and refuses togo upstairs, I will close them in my room while I tend to the victim, then I promptly go talk to the perpetrator.

I don't think I'd use time outs with an only child... I only do so I can comfort the attcked one in a way that makes them feel safe (the attacker out of the picture for a few minutes).
And I don't even see that as a time out- more of a triage dealing with the situation kind of thing.

-Angela
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#28 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:33 AM
 
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I understand this in young children who cannot comprehend how a time out is related to putting things in the toilet, for example.

But, what about in older children who can reason? When does it become appropriate to say "if you do x when I ask you not too, then y will happen"?

And if the "punishment" is consistent, how is it random? If the same thing happens every time (loosing a privilege, like TV, or going to the park).

I KNEW when I was kid that if I did something wrong I wasn't allowed to ride my horse. There were no "random" punishments, and honestly, I can see how that would be confusing to a child. But if the consequences are consistent...

Past a young child you get into the argument that punishments are not appropriate. Of course there is a lot of disagreement on that.

But I'm coming around to that way of thinking... I've not yet come up with a senario that I'd personally feel okay with issuing a punishment.

-Angela
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#29 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:34 AM
 
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I think you have to look at the intent sometimes. Is removing the child from the dog the goal? If so, why couldn't you just go to another room? Is giving the child a chance to calm down the goal? What happens if the child isn't calm by the time the timer goes off? Or is calm well before?

Most of the time it seems that time-outs are designed to make the child wish they hadn't done whatever it was.

Especially for AP parents, it seems so strange to me to spend all this time building the attachment and trust and then using that against the child--taking it away when they've done something that displeases us.

Punishment, in general, doesn't teach the kind of lessons I want to teach my kids. I don't want to set up that whole adversarial relationship and have them worry more about being caught than doing the right thing. I prefer to explain things to them and give them tools to meet their needs.
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-Angela
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#30 of 185 Old 06-09-2007, 01:36 AM
 
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Originally Posted by A Boy's Mama View Post
I am a time out advocate. I find it to be a very effective and gentle tool for the big problem behaviors that don't have acceptable natural consequences. I've become sort of a broken record on this in the Gentle Discipline folder but one of the things I think time outs work very well for is violent behavior. Hurting someone else is not ok and should be addressed immediately. For me, the way to address that kind of behavior is with time outs and it's been very effective. I believe it would also be effective for most kids.

We're here to help our children figure out how this world works and how they can best work in their world, you know? A person is only a child for 1/5 of their life, if that, and while it's a very important part of their life, the adult version of our children should be a big priority and I don't want to leave my kiddo wondering how to behave in various situations. Time outs are just one tool a parent can use to help a child figure out what's ok and what's not.

Edited to add: I thought I should add how exactly we do our time outs. For example, if my son hits the cat or whatever, I immediately react by picking him up and sitting him in a chair in the dining room (a central room in our home). I kneel down and explain to him that he is getting a time out because he hit the cat (important to be specific about this so he can understand) and that he must sit in the chair for 3 minutes. Then I set the timer and walk away. I'm usually either in the kitchen or sitting out int he living room, both are within eyeshot. When the timer goes off, I kneel down in front of him again and I ask him if he understands why he's in time out. We talk about hitting the cat, is that an ok thing or no? What can we do next time the cat frustrates us (can you tell the cat vs. boy thing is an ongoing issue in my home? ), like saying "I'm mad!" or whatever. Then we hug and that's that.

And for *me* that just doesn't sit right. I want my dd to not hit the cat because she cares about the cat not because she's afraid of a punishment.

-Angela
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