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Time out

Nikki - posted on 06/12/2011 ( 17 moms have responded )

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Stemming from another thread...

I am interested to know what everyone thinks of time out. Do you use it? if so/not why? How do you use it and for what kind of situations? what would you use as an alternative?

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Jenni - posted on 06/26/2011

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Elfrieda, I do agree with JL. I started time outs (the typical way) at 18 months and I found they were ineffective until my son turned 2-2.5 years old. He was hitting and I used them more to seperate him from whoever he was hitting and ignore the behaviour. Although I still feel they were necessary to start at 18 months to protect other's from him and for him to calm down before returning to play. But the hitting didn't stop for a year after when he had a little more self-control and had better language comprehension (to explain why he was in time out and how to handle the situation appropriately).
At 18 months it makes much more sense to lock the cupboard for the reasons JL mentioned. I also have an unlocked bathroom cupboard my daughter like to get into, I should probably take my own advice and get a lock for it!
She will close it when I say 'close it'. But she just opens it again as soon as she closes it. When I try to stop her from going in it, she just gets frustrated. Cause and effect is an important learning process for them, so it's best to have a safe environment for them to explore so you don't have to interupt the learning process or punish them for it.

Teach him, 'close it', 'don't touch', 'gentle touch' with relatively safe objects in a controlled environment.

Another great idea, if you don't have one already, make a baby cupboard. I have some for my daughter she is allowed to go in and explore. I keep safe items she can play with like pots, pans, utensils, containers etc. It helps satisfy their curiousity of going into cupboards.

JuLeah - posted on 06/13/2011

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Jl ... to be clear, I don't mean when you send a kid to the time out step that the child is happy and positive ... I mean when no one is upset, when no one is crying, when everyone is in a good place, THEN practice what time ut means. Talk to them about how when they are upset, angry, throwing things, acting rude, need to cool off, need time to think ... this is where you will send them.

Practice what to do there. Toddlers can practice breathing deep ... older kids can practice 'self talk', breathing, whatever calms them ....

Riana - posted on 06/13/2011

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Like most things in life it's not about IF you use time-outs but rather about HOW you use them.

If you are using it as an alternative to spanking then it's likely to be forced, associated with a lot of negative emotions, you are likely angry the child is angry and it cuts off communication and can be all together counter productive.

However, if you use it as a tool in regaining control of your own emotions and teach your child to do the same it can then be very helpful in promoting the communication needed in order to solve problems.

So ask yourself this what am I aiming to achieve with time-out? Am I trying to control my child? (Because if that is the case then you might be better off spanking them) or am I trying to teach them a life skill?

Jaime - posted on 06/25/2011

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Elfrieda, you don't have to isolate for time-out. Particularly not at 18 months old. I do 'quiet time' which is a designated spot in the same room that I'm in, or others are in, but my son has to sit for 2 minutes. It's not perfect quiet time because he's usually moving around and trying to talk to me, but the idea is for him to calm down or stop the behaviour that landed him in quiet time.

When your son is closing and opening the cupboard door, it's still cause & effect. He's not necessarily connecting opening the door with the negative consequence so it might be easier for you to put a child lock on the cupboard and let him gradually learn what he can and cannot do. I know that it's frustrating...trust me, my son was into everything he could grab at that age. I don't think isolated time-out is wrong or bad, but probably ineffective at this point because he's just not cognitively 'there' yet.

Sally - posted on 06/25/2011

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I love time-outs. I take them regularly to avoid smacking my kids when the 6 year old is being snotty or the 20 month old is being a normal toddler.
I usually take them in the bathroom so I have a chair and a door that locks.

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Jenni - posted on 06/26/2011

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Sorry, I said punishment for lack of a better term. Like JL said, it's not bad... it'll probably just be ineffective at his age. It's not going to hurt him. :) But who knows, maybe it will be effective. Some kids are more mature than others. I think the concern is that it may lead to unnecessary frustration on your part and/or his.

Elfrieda - posted on 06/26/2011

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Thanks guys. It's not so much a punishment as it is removing a treat. Him being allowed in the bathroom is exciting for him, because there's a shower curtain to rustle and stairs to the bath to climb, but he can always go and find my husband in the kitchen who is probably brewing coffee at that time of the day.

Elfrieda - posted on 06/25/2011

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My son is 18 months old and I just started using a form of time-out instead of smacking his hand. He's fascinated by the bathroom cupboard, and sometimes just can't resist going over there and opening the door which is a big no-no. I like to hang out with him while I'm doing my hair and face, and he likes it, too, but if he holds the cupboard handle and looks at me, I say Close it and he opens it again, I grab him, put him outside the door, close it, and count to 60. Then I open the door and allow him to come back in. If he touches the handle again, out he goes for another 60 seconds. It's pretty effective, but he hates it. To me it feels a little meaner than smacking, but less frustrating for me.

I think I have to be careful not to over-do the isolation aspect of it, because it really does cut him deep. He really likes being near people.

Jaime - posted on 06/13/2011

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Oh shit, my bad...sorry JuLeah, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying :)

Jaime - posted on 06/13/2011

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Absolutely September. Gray doesn't sit perfectly still in quiety time...but it's not so much about perfection as it is about him learning to just calm himself down. Ignoring his attention-seeking behaviours during 'quiet time' is what I am working on at the moment. If sitting and talking is what works with your son, then I think that is awesome and you shouldn't change it one bit.

September - posted on 06/13/2011

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JL Burns thanks! I can see the other technique you mention as helpful too, however our son does not work that way and would prefer I sit with him and talk it out. Now that may change with age...he's 2.5 now...so we will see :)

Jaime - posted on 06/13/2011

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JuLeah, I can agree that the goal of time out is to invoke a positive outcome, but it's not always practised in a "happy positive way". Time out still doesn't have to be about punishment, but I'll be honest if my son is misbehaving or being intentionally rude or disruptive to gain negative attention then the best course of action IS a time out...a time away from all of the 'chaos', so that he can bring himself down and just sit quietly or putter around his room for a short time until he's ready to come back and be with other members of the family in a respectful way. I do think that there are times when time-out HAS to play the role of punishment so-to-speak. Of course the goal is to utilize all tools of positive discipline to avoid that being the case, but worst case scenario, sometimes even after several attempts to talk to, redirect, refocus, kids just need that time alone so that they understand how disruptive their behaviour is and how important it is for them to cooperate and communicate their feelings in a way that WILL invoke a postiive outcome.

JuLeah - posted on 06/13/2011

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Time out should not be used as a punishment. It is not a replacement for spanking.

Time out is 'practiced' when no one is upset or mad. It is practiced in a happy positive way.

When a person is upset, and doing behaviors that hurts others (hitting, spitting, slapping, screaming) - adults as well as kids, need to take a time out. One sits (on a bench, on a step, facing a wall, on the sofa) for .... pick a time ... one minute per age of child is what I have heard ... and there they sit, there they think about what their goals are, what do they want? Will their actions help them get that? What can they do instead? Of course the older the child, the better able they are to self talk ... toddlers just sit and take deep breaths ....

Jaime - posted on 06/13/2011

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That's awesome September and I imagine that the more a situation is dealth with in this way, the easier it gets for kids to learn how to control their impulses or emotions. With that said, there are some times when emotions run a bit high and a child might not have the ability to come down from it with a simple 'talk', so in that case I'd say that some time away might be effective in giving him/her a chance to feel the emotions, but in an area away from others where they can focus on expression instead of escalation.

September - posted on 06/13/2011

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We don't use timeouts per say but rather remove our son from the situation and have a little talk about whatever it is that he's doing or talk out the emotions he's feeling. Then we hug each other and move on.

Jenni - posted on 06/13/2011

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I use them similarily to Riana and JL.



To teach my children to take quiet time to calm down when they experience runaway emotions. I've only had to tell my children to take a time out maybe twice this past month. As I've mentioned in other conversations they have started to retreat to a quiet spot on their own lately when they're feeling overwhelmed. I also model taking time outs for myself when I'm feeling frustrated.



A lot of negative behaviours occur when we are feeling angry, frustrated, sad, upset. So a positive reaction to these emotions is to take some quiet time to calm down and then talk with someone about these feelings. So that is my goal with my children.



I believe any tool of discipline used as a punishment, although it may be effective at first, will not be effective in the long run. When we punish, whether it's spanking, yelling or timeouts we are forcing the child to obey rather than teaching the child to make the right decision. Once the punishment loses it's fear of compliance, we will be right back to the drawing board. We will have to come up with a new punishment that instills fear to effectively force our children to obey. When children are obedient out of fear they are not learning why they shouldn't engage in a behaviour only that they will be punished if they do. Of course for some children that fear may stop them from engaging in a forbidden behaviour but they are not being given the critical problem solving skills to make positive choices at any interval. Or when a parent or authority figure is not present to carry out a punishment.



So my alternatives are proactive for the most part and not reactive. Examples of this would be:

Keep them busy! Idle hands are the Devil's play thing.

Providing my toddlers with language skills necessary to express their emotions rather than react by becoming physical.

Communication with my children. Telling them possible outcomes of negative decision making and positive decision making. Asking them questions on how to react in a given situation. "If Kira doesn't want to share a toy. What do you do?"

I avoid unnecessary power struggles.

I research behavioural development to understand the root of forbidden behaviours.

I teach safety through modelling behaviours, practicing safety procedures and discussions. When my children were not old enough for this, I kept them safe through child proofing.

Roleplaying positive decision making.

Modelling positive decision making.

Praising when positive decisions are made.

Preparing my children for public outings or visiting friends' houses- what will be expected of them behaviour-wise. Also, asking them what is expected of them and allowing them to talk about what behaviours they feel will be important.



When I do have to be reactive (the forbidden behaviour has already occured), I practice natural consequences. Some examples would be:

If they make a mess, they have to clean it up.

If they wreck a toy/book, it goes in the garbage.

If they are not behaving at a friend's house after being warned, we leave.

If they yell or ask for something without using manners, I repeat the request back to them how to ask nicely and will not comply until they can ask politely.

If they are fighting and using disrespectful behaviour towards eachother, they have to play in seperate rooms until they can resolve their issue or play nice.

If they can't decide how to share a toy and are fighting over it, it gets taken away until they can decide who's turn it is.

If they don't eat their dinner, we will enjoy dessert but they won't.



What's important when practicing natural consequences is to first give them a choice (when possible). "You can either play nice with your friends or we will leave, your choice."

"If you eat your dinner you will get a dessert, if you don't eat there will be no dessert."

This way they are ultimately making the decision for themselves. They know the consequences of making a wrong choice. If they still choose not to, they will experience the consequences of making a poor decision.



I absolutely love the age my children are at now! 3 and 4 because it's getting to the point where all we have to do is have a discussion about behaviours where I help them to understand why they should make positive choices over negative choices. They are so much more receptive now. :))

Jaime - posted on 06/13/2011

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I use a variation of 'time-out' called 'quiet time'. This is a strategy that I learned from the Triple P parenting course I took. Quiet time is a quick, immediate consequence for problem behaviour (hitting, kicking, biting, throwing toys, running in the house). I simply tell Gray that he has to sit for two minutes for quiet time and then I walk away and do something so that I'm not giving him attention when he's supposed to be quiet. The idea is not to punish him for his behaviour, it's to give him the opportunity to quiet down and calm down before he goes back to playing. Sometimes he gets so wound up that he is unable to control his behaviour, so I find that quiet time gives him that chance to calm down. My son is only two, so time outs are pretty useless considering the fact that he understands little about his behaviour at this point. I think that time outs are very effective and work exactly the same as quiet time, except that a child is removed from the common areas of the house in order to have a true time out of all the chaos that might be contributing to their misbehaviour. Time out isn't about punishing a crime, it's about consequencing behaviour. If a child is misbehaving and sent to their room for hours on end, I think this is counter productive because there is no lesson to be learned. Time out puts a lot of the onus on the child to come back and join the rest of the family when they are not so upset/hyper/destructive/rude/angry/upset. There is nothing wrong with expressing emotions, but the way in which those emotions are expressed is much more the lesson to be taught by consequences. A LOT of problem behaviour can be dealt with by using natural consequences. But there are still a lot of areas that require logical consequences as well. It's determining which behaviours warrant which consequences and then being consistent in that approach that takes patience and discipline on the part of the parent. There is nothing wrong with time-out...but you have to ask yourself if the time-out fits with the behaviour that lead to it. What might be helpful is for us to come up with a list of situations and see if we can figure out which situations warrant a time-out, versus natural consequences or other logical consequences.

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