Time out has been a fickle friend. From its initial burst onto the scene it was a positive alternative to corporeal punishment. Hooray for time outs, right?
With time and popularity of a practice comes greater research and scrutiny and we’ve now learned that time outs may not be working and, in fact, may be counter-productive, engendering greater feelings of social isolation and rejection in children who most need to build social connections and competency. Boo to time outs, right?
When we know better we do better. What’s interesting to me, however, is when I come across parents and child care centers who are aware of the more current knowledge on time out and so they sort of, kind of change.
I’ve observed in classrooms where teachers proudly tell me they don’t use time outs. Then they explain to me what they do instead — essentially time outs by another name. The power chair. Cubby time. Taking a break. I’m not saying all these things are wrong. Many are being used in exactly the right way. And others could maybe use some serious tweaking. What I find interesting is that our focus has been on the name, and not so much on the practice.
Tools are about function. Names are merely for convenience in referencing. You can call a Phillip’s screwdriver an X-head if you like, as long as you know how to use it.
Time out is the same way. We can use it inappropriately, shunning and shaming children, hoping to magically change their behavior simply by changing their location. It doesn’t work. So we use a different name. But if the technique is the same, it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t the name that prevents it from working, it’s the technique.
Similarly, if you’d like to use time out as a tool, in an effective way and with proper technique, by all means you can call it time out and not get the stink-eye from me or anyone else.
As I’ve mentioned before, time outs are for coaching, as the term implies. You would never expect to see the coach of a professional basketball team call a time out when his team is performing poorly, only to shout “NO”, give stern looks, and then walk away from them as they waste away the remainder of the time out clock sitting in silence.
Watch seasoned coaches. They call time outs to get their players out of a situation that has gotten out of control. They give them a chance to calm down and catch their breath. They look them right in the eye and let them know what’s not working and what they need to see instead. They get input and create a plan. And then they send them out again, watching closely to see if the new plan works.
If you’d like to use that time-out with your child, I dare say you’d get the blessing of even the biggest opponents of time outs. It’s not about the name. It’s about the level of connection and support. It’s about giving kids the opportunities and the tools to be successful. That doesn’t come from isolation or shame, it comes from practice and supported learning.
I’m getting ready to start my third session of my Parenting with Positive Guidance Ecourse, in fact, the first class “goes live” today! The whole course is about principles, tools, and real world applications. We don’t get bogged down in semantics and linguistic gymnastics, because it isn’t about terms, it’s about tools. Using time outs appropriately is just one of the topics addressed. Along with an overview of the philosophy of positive guidance, I share ten tools that will help guide child behavior in positive ways. These are tools that are considered best practice by child development professionals and they are tools you can start using today.
I’d love to have you join me! Registration has been extended through this weekend. Head on over to the registration page and you can jump right into today’s class material. Be sure to use the TEAM discount, and you can register for you and a partner for less than the cost of a single registration! That’s because I believe real learning takes place when you discuss information together and support each other as you implement new tools.
Head on over and read what past participants have said. You can also check out the money back guarantee and frequently asked questions. I hope to see you in class!