We’ve all heard of time-outs as one of those standard issue parenting techniques that have stood the test of time throughout generations. Now that I’m a parent myself I’ve learned that time-outs don’t mean the same thing to all parents or all kids. When, how and why parents resort to time-outs and the ‘ground rules’ that surround them are surely as varied as parents and kids are varied.
Lately I’ve heard some talk from the attachment-parenting set (something I’ve considered myself a part of in many ways, go figure) that time-outs are in fact a detrimental no-no. An article on rootparenting.com was recently brought to my attention. It lists 5 reasons why time-outs are harmful to kids.
The whole write-up evokes the image of a dismissive parent angrily shaming their child off to their room at the first sign of ‘bad’ behavior. Paragraph after paragraph describes how time-outs lead to low self esteem, lack of trust, rebellion in the teen years, a kid’s inability to think for themselves, and just the general deterioration of your relationship. Finally, the author allows himself to admit the following:
Sure, you will need to let them simmer down from a tantrum or tears before discussing the issues they are having.
THAT is where a time-out sometimes helps, for our family. When Lil is worked up, beyond the ability to talk or listen. When she reaches that point, as long as she has an audience (me) she’ll continue to scream. That is when I bring her into her room for some much needed alone time to collect herself before discussion can start.
I tell her she needs to have a time-out until she is able to calm down enough to talk and listen. And then – I do what this article shuns – I walk away. But first, and this is key, I tell her, “come out when you’ve calmed down enough to talk.” I put the choice in her hands. She definitely screams a few moments more, but then does calm herself down and emerges when she is ready. And then I am very happy to see her, and we are able to move forward.
The article talks about separating ourselves from our kids as a horrific breach of trust that will have long-term affects on their self esteem. And it asserts that time-outs are disempowering for kids. But I find that this empowers Lil. She is able to calm herself down, in her own time. It is *her* choice to come out and join us with an adjusted attitude. Sometimes whatever had upset her is no longer an issue, because she was able to fix the problem herself. Often its something as simple as “i can’t get my doll to fit in her blanket the right way” and then I can help her out with that, and show her how to do it herself next time. Even if its still a debate, “i want to eat my lollipop right now” for instance, I’ll have a better chance of explaining to a non-screaming child that its too close to bedtime and she has already brushed her teeth.
These are the kinds of little things that can lead to a tantrum and sometimes she really does need a little alone time to gather herself before she can conversate. Yes my kid is not yet 3 but she talks like a 4yr old. The article further suggests that consequences are meaningless in kids under 5 because they have no understanding of things like sharing or of empathy. That’s a laugh. Sure there are exceptions to every ‘rule’ and I don’t doubt my daughter is among those.
I realize the underlying point of the article is to keep the open communicative relationship with our children; a message many parents should hear. Perhaps doctors and specialists on this matter should convey that better, without making the blanket assumption that timeouts are the lazy response of uncaring parents. A few more like this and I might start rolling my eyes at “attachment parenting” as one more phrase who’s meaning is muddled by preachy know-it-alls not open minded to the variables real-life parents deal with.