Parents Canada - - Contents - BY AMY BIELBY

Time-out tac­tics: When it comes to dis­ci­pline, do time-outs re­ally work?

I’ve never re­ally given my daugh­ter time-outs. Part of the rea­son­ing be­hind this is that she takes it upon her­self to do so. If we are hav­ing a bit of a bat­tle and her emo­tions get the bet­ter of her, she sim­ply goes to her room to cool off (and to prove she is an­gry at me). This has worked for both of us – I’m not the bad guy and she gets the space she needs to chill out.

An­drea Miller, a Hamilton, Ont. na­tive and mom of two, agrees that space is key. When she in­structs her son to take a time-out in his room, “the un­der­stand­ing is he can read or colour (there are no toys in his room) or snug­gle or what­ever. Or rage, if it feels bet­ter to let it out.”

The bed­room time-out can be up for de­bate, how­ever. An­drea says, “I’ve strug­gled with us­ing his room for time-out be­cause I want that to be his safe place where he can go when he needs space and not see it as a jail cell.”

Ac­cord­ing to Sick­kids Hospi­tal, time-outs need to be given con­sis­tently and in the right place. “Time-outs should last about one minute per year of the child’s age, to a max­i­mum of five min­utes. Time-outs should not be near a TV, com­puter or other forms of en­ter­tain­ment,” ac­cord­ing to aboutkid­

The time-out in it­self isn’t enough, how­ever. When a time-out is given, your child should clearly un­der­stand why it is hap­pen­ing. Ex­plain, for ex­am­ple, “You are on a time-out be­cause you keep pulling the dog’s tail”. Stick to your guns and ig­nore any cry­ing. If your child leaves the time-out area, start the timer again.

Dr. Mary C. Lamia does ex­am­ine the down­side to time-outs in Psy­chol­ogy To­day. “Time-outs teach the child that one should sep­a­rate one­self from oth­ers and from the prob­lem, rather than re­main con­nected and work it out,” she says. So be sure to keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open, rather than just im­me­di­ately ban­ish­ing your child to the time­out chair/area.

An­drea says that af­ter time-outs with her son, they al­ways hug it out. “It’s not about him be­ing a bad per­son; it’s about him demon­strat­ing that he can’t be in what­ever sit­u­a­tion he is in and show­ing me he needs a break. And ev­ery ac­tion has a con­se­quence. Good ac­tions have good con­se­quences (which I try re­ally hard to re­mem­ber and ac­knowl­edge) and bad ac­tions have bad con­se­quences, like a time-out.”

En­cour­age mind­ful­ness and deep breath­ing tech­niques as your child cools down. And while time-outs won’t fix un­wanted be­hav­iour overnight, the hope is that you’ll see some change over time.

A cool­ing off pe­riod, along with com­mu­ni­ca­tion, can go a long way.

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