Time out. This is probably one of the most popular discipline strategies used by parents. It is also one of the most difficult. As smart as we are, our kids are sometimes smarter than we are when it comes to time out.
As a home visitor and parent coach, I have seen parents who have time out down and others who really struggle with it. To make matters worse, those that struggle often feel helpless and hopeless that they will be able to manage their children's behavior. For those of you who didn't know, children can smell fear and are pre-programmed to know exactly how to take advantage of it!
Effective use of time out has been a hot topic in the last few weeks on many of my home visits (could it be the full moon?!). As a result, I thought I would share some tips that I discuss with parents with my readers. But first, there are a few precursory things to discuss before jumping into the technique itself:
- Determine what kinds of behaviors will warrant a time out. If you are married or in a long term relationship, be sure to discuss this with your partner. YOU MUST BE ON THE SAME PAGE! This is a good time to discuss household rules if you have not already done so. Check out this post for more information on establishing household rules. Make sure you share with the kids what behaviors will warrant a time out!
- Determine where you will be doing the time out. Be sure it is in an area that is somewhat secluded, particularly if you have young children. Doing a time out in the kitchen while you are making dinner offers your child way too much opportunity to get your attention. More about how we sometimes inadvertently reinforce negative behaviors in a moment...
- Determine how long the time out will last. The general rule of thumb is one minute for every year of age. You also need to consider whether time out begins right away or if it starts when the child is calm. That is entirely up to you as a parent. You have to decide what works best for you and your child. I'll share how we do "time outs" in the Mentor Mom household in an upcoming post :)
- Determine the "exit" strategy. You need to consider how you are going to handle your child once he/she exits from time out. For example, are you going to immediately require an apology? Some parents do while for other parents, it depends on the infraction. Many parents require apologies for behaviors that cause physical or emotional harm to others (e.g., hitting, name calling, etc.) but do not for annoying behaviors such as crying, yelling, or whining. Again, you have to decide what works best for you and your family.
- Prepare yourself mentally! You need to believe that you will be successful. One of my favorite sayings is "How can anyone else believe in you if you don't believe in yourself?" You may feel like mush on the inside, but you have to present a confident front. The saying "Never let them see you sweat" is so true when it comes to parenting!
Okay, so we've discussed the prep work. We'll talk next time about technique...