Time in or time out?


Those of us whose parenting credentials are from Supernanny or basic trial and error would agree that time-out is a fairly basic tool in calming down riotous moments in the family universe. Now hear this out. A while ago Time magazine reported on a recent study that says time-outs may not only be inefficient but also harmful to children.

“When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet. In fact, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain—like that caused by rejection—looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity.”

The article reads on:

“Next time the need for discipline arises, parents might consider a “time-in”: forging a loving connection, such as sitting with the child and talking or comforting. Some time to calm down can be extremely valuable for children, teaching them how to pause and reflect on their behavior. Especially for younger children, such reflection is created in relationship, not in isolation.”

*Disclaimer: The child in the picture is actually not having a time-out, a tantrum but just a little rest.

Eye rolling. Have you tried having a “time-in” with a hysterical three-year old having a fit over the colour of her underpants? Well I have. Insert ear-piercing screaming between the lines and welcome to listen to a regular afternoon monologue:

What is the matter honey (ok, maybe omit honey)?
You wanted pink pants?
Oh the other pink pants?
You mean the pink pants that are pink but look purple?
No? What about these ones?
Ok, why don’t you wear whatever pants you want.
(Screaming goes on)

Seriously, more time-in? Tantrum-time-outs were almost a daily occurrence for us at the height of that lovely period. I cannot believe it is a parents’ job to be a punching bag and tolerate brain-severing screaming – and be expected to respond in a calm manner? In our case the hugs and consolation were always available but generally not accepted before the little screamer had calmed down on the time-out and ready for it.

Surely time-out is not the first weapon in anyone’s tantrum-tacking arsenal? In our household the so-called “time-in” would be the first approach in  most cases. I expect this to be norm, I hope I am not wrong.

Silly tantrums are one thing and inseparable part of childs’ development (or something). Certain non-negotiable rules are another. Violence towards anyone leads to an immediate time out, no warnings. I think my two have had this punishment maybe four times.

Another offence that often gets me threatening them with time-outs is the constant bickering and fighting. I think I’ve actually used it only once (not necessarily because they’ve stopped but because I am lazy – Supernanny would be very, very annoyed) and have to say sentencing them to separate rooms was a pretty powerful tool. But common sense would say just that, isolating them is a serious punishment and should be reserved for serious issues. Throwing things, being annoying or pouring milk all over the kitchen floor would not lead to a time-out.

What do you think, is it time out for the time-out?

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