Understanding Time-Out


Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, you may find yourself with a little reading time on your hands. And with the kids underfoot all day, a practical, easy-to-read parenting book is a good choice. Come and take a look at my books which are available in either print or digital format. That means you can hold them and turn the pages or read them on your kindle, smart phone, iPod or iPad. Your choice.

Time Out is a topic of great interest for parents. It is a handy, non-violent and effective parenting tool. Or is it?

Unfortunately, like so many things in life; it depends. Sometimes using a time out is the perfect solution to a problematic behavior. But sometimes it isn’t. Today we are going to take a look at this popular concept with the goal of understanding the role of time out as we raise our children to become self-disciplined young men and women.

Time Out – When is it the correct answer?

The holidays mean lots of cooking. Reading recipes, measuring and mixing, baking and cooling and cleaning up the kitchen.

And when it’s all done, I need a time-out. I need to get up and stretch, to breathe a little fresh air and to slow down.  I might take a short walk outside and return refreshed or just stop and shake off the cobwebs.

Time-out has become a popular way to handle child misbehavior.  Sometimes it involves a particular chair in an arid environment that is imposed by setting one minute per year of the child’s age.  Gee, by that reckoning, I’d have a very long sit down.

Time-out is not an imposed sentence based on age, it’s a break.  It’s a chance to get away and calm down, to take time to think or to get a rest.  It’s a coffee break, a break in the action at a hockey game, a walk around the block or counting to ten.

When we say to our child; “You settle down young man or you’re going to have a time-out,” that’s not a break it’s a penalty.  We will impose this and the threat of it is seen as a way to make him behave.

When we say; “It looks like you need to take a break.  How about you come with me for a few minutes so you can settle down.”  That’s a time-out.

We should stay with our kids when they’re little.  Otherwise they will see what’s happening as banishment and never connect it with the misbehavior.  When we stay with them and help them to calm down they learn about the need to take a break when a situation is getting out of hand.

We can also model time-out.  When you’re nose-to-nose with your eight-year-old and tempers are flaring look at him and say: “I need a time-out.  We can continue this when I calm down.  I’m going for a walk around the block.”

My friend Nicole is mother of a large and noisy family.  They all thrive in the hustle-bustle created when they get together.  Recently her son invited his friend Jeremy to come on a weekend camping trip.  When they returned home Nicole told me that she noticed that from time to time, when the stimulation of her rowdy family became too much for Jeremy he’d quietly wander off on his own for fifteen or twenty minutes and return full of energy.

Jeremy had learned from his parents about taking a break.  When he was a toddler his parents would remove him when he lost it with his friends and would help him calm down.  By the time he started school his mom could simply say, “Jeremy, you need to take a break.”  And he’d leave the room until he calmed down.  And now, at age 12 he knows how to self-calm.  And that’s what time-out is about.

Time-out is the coffee break of life.  Let’s treat it like that.  Taking a time-out shouldn’t be a judgement; it should be a wonderful chance to settle down.






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