Using Effective Time-Outs
Many parents use the same type of discipline for every problem situation. One tool, however, is rarely effective for all situations. Plus, overusing one particular tool also reduces its usefulness. Timeout is just one tool -- and it really isn't a "discipline" tool; it's an effective anger-management tool. Since the purpose of a timeout is to help someone regain control, it is most appropriate to use when someone has lost self-control or there is extremely disruptive behavior.
Most adults have the mistaken idea that the whole point of sending children to timeout is to make the child suffer for their misbehavior. "You go to your room (or chair) and think about what you did." The tone of voice usually implies, "and you suffer." Imposing suffering only brings on more resentment and power struggles. Effective discipline, however, teaches children lessons from their poor behavior choices, rather than punishing them. If you want timeouts to be constructive, try following these guidelines:
Some parents hesitate to use a child's room for fear the child will view the bedroom as a prison. If the timeout is initiated kindly and the goal is to give the child and you some quiet space, children won't see it as punishment. If you feel the child will be destructive, plan ahead and remove or put objects you don't want destroyed out of reach.
If you force a child to stay in a chair or room, it shifts the focus from what they did and their responsibility for calming down to who is in power. This turns the timeout into a punishment, which removes its effectiveness.
Think about your long-term goal. If you want children to learn that it is their responsibility to control their behavior, use timeouts as cooling off periods which teach children how to achieve this self-control.
by Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE
Jody Johnston Pawel is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Family Life Educator, second-generation parent educator, founder of The Family Network, and President of Parents Toolshop Consulting. She is the author of 100+ parent education resources, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop. Jody currently serves as the online parenting expert for Cox Ohio Publishing's mom-to-mom websites and also serves on the Advisory Board of the National Effective Parenting Initiative.