Monday, April 6, 2009

Do you time out?

I am at the stage in parenting where I haven't really come across the issue of discipline yet. My little girl does know how to say the word "no" and she uses it, but she is still young and so easily redirected and easy-going that I have yet to find the need to use time out or anything like that. As my daughter gets older, though, I realize that things will change. But I have often wondered if time out is really effective. Do children really understand why they are being sent to a corner? I've even wondered if some moms buy those little time out stools or chairs just because they think they're cute. Silly thought, I know!

When I student taught in a preschool class of 3 year olds, we were told to never use time out. Instead we were instructed to talk kids through their feelings and help them find ways to problem solve. For example, if one child hit another child or took away a toy they were playing with, we would say something along the lines of "Look at Susie's face. She looks sad. That's because you hit her. What could you do to make her feel happy again?" and then guide the child into saying they were sorry, giving the other child a hug, etc. Now, before you all roll your eyes at me, I do understand that the 'real world' is often different than a classroom setting. That being said, a few other observations I've made that teachers and/or moms use are 'think time', having children use puppets to talk to each other about their feelings when they are having a hard time with confrontation, or writing in a small book or journal. One thing I've always tried to do is tell children what they can do instead of what they can't do. For example, if my daughter is around a younger baby and needs a reminder to be gentle, I try to say something like "Be soft with the baby. Like this..." and show her to touch the baby softly rather than saying something like "Don't do that!" Also, at a professional development given on emotional coaching, we were encouraged to discipline misbehaving children for what they do; not what they feel, when children misbehaved to help them identify their feelings and explain why their behavior was inappropriate, to encourage emotional expression but set clear limits on behavior, and to help children think through possible solutions.

I realize that these ideas can be easier said than done and that different things work for different children and parents.

So, let's talk about it :) ...
  • Do you use time out with your children?
  • If so, at what age do you think it is age appropriate?
  • How long do you have your children stay in time out?
  • Is it effective?
  • How do you implement it?
  • What else do you do to help redirect your children's behavior/discipline?


Anonymous said...

I use a couple forms of time out. Usually my husband and I will send our child to their bedroom and give them a few minutes. This is especially effective when they are crying/having a fit b/c they learn that when they are upset, they go to their bedroom and they can be as loud as they want to and when they are done they may come out and talk to us about why they are upset.
After we have let our child sit in his/her bedroom for a few minutes, we go into the bedroom and talk with them about why the choice they made was wrong and what they could do to make a better choice next time.
My husband and I have always talked to our children as though they were old enough to understand. I think this has been really helpful because my kids understand a lot more about a lot of things than a lot of kids their age do (does that make sense?)
I think that if you only use time out as a punishment and don't talk with your child about why they are in time out, then time out isn't going to be an effective tool. It's all about communication (even with the kids you think might be too young to understand)!!

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of ideas on this, and I could say a lot, but I will only say one thing.

I think timeout is most effective when it is in the child's bedroom like above stated. But, istead of saying, "you are so naughty, go to your room" to instead say something like "you can come out when you are ready to be nice." I am a big fan of Love and Logic, if you read that it has a lot of ideas on "time out" but it is called "bedroom time" I think that timeout is NOT effective if you do it in the same room, in the corner.

Jay and Michelle Teerlink said...

We use it with our 4 year old son. I didn't start using it on him until he was about 2-3. We have him stay there for the age he is. For the most part it does work, but there are those days when he doesn't listen and is in time out a lot. Usually we will give him 3 warnings and if on the third one he doesn't listen or mouths off then it's time out time. I try to have him focus on something else at first. Usually he will just go and do what we have suggested he do instead of driving us crazy or pulling off any antics that get him in trouble. For us we have the added challenge that he is autistic and so it takes a lot of repeating ourselves to help him understand why somethings are wrong and why not to do certain things.

Erin said...

I think it totally depends on the kid and the behavior problem. I use time out for Hayden sometimes, and it works for him. I can't remember how old he was when I started, but I know he was over a year and he knew that he was doing something wrong. I really like your examples of finding other ways to problem solve and tell them what they can do instead. I would definitely try those first, but sometimes he just doesn't want to listen or he keeps repeating the same behaviors over and over Sometimes it takes sitting in time out to know that we are serious. I made sure to always have the time out chair in the same place so it's consistent. I also sit next to him otherwise he would get up, and I did one minute (with a timer) until he turned two, and now it's two minutes. He didn't get it for a while, but now he can tell me why he is in time out and he says he's sorry. I always give him a hug after and tell him I love him. He usually stops at least for a while after that. I'm no child development expert, and I'm not perfect at being consistent (although I really try) but this works for us. Explain the problem first, and then timeout.

Jessie said...

I agree with the others above--we use timeouts a little bit (and have since my daughter was somewhere around 18 mos), but we always talk about what happened, and how we can do better next time. I only do timeouts when my daughter can't seem to be nice, at which point I take her to her bed, and she sits on her bed for the number of minutes that match her age (she is 3 right now, so she'd sit on her bed for 3 minutes). I only use timeouts when I really feel like either she or I can't deal any other way, so she knows that timeouts are serious. Once the time is up, I'll go in to get her, and we'll talk about what is not nice (i.e. hitting, kicking, pushing, etc.) and then what *is* nice (hugging, kissing, playing with, sharing, etc.) and how she can do more to be nice instead of not nice. Your example of teaching your child to be nice, instead of telling her not to be mean is great.

Instead of timeouts, though, a lot of times I'll either count (she has to do what I'm asking before I get to three, or else a *related* punishment will happen--i.e. pick up her crayons or else she can't play with them again for a while, etc.), or if she's sad or angry or whatever, I'll tell her that she needs to be happy, because I can't understand sad girls, or sad girls need naps, or whatever works with the situation. For the most part, my daughter does really well with this. If she can't calm herself down, it does usually mean she is in need of a nap, so it's just as well that I put her down.

Good luck, like you said, every child is different.

Diane said...

One opinion I heard on time out is that it shouldn't be a 'punishment' but rather a distraction. i.e. when the child is doing something they shouldn't, or being too wild, help them find a different activity for a while until they can calm down: coloring, or something else that is "quiet". I like the idea of creating a distraction - and use that principle a LOT, but I also think that depends on what they are doing that deserves a 'time out'.

I really believe in talking to the child and discussing their behavior and how it can/should/needs to be improved. I also like Love and Logics idea of bedroom time, and how they use the example of if the child is throwing a tantrum that they can either choose to stop or go to their room. I love that it's THEIR CHOICE! For a while Hunter was super over-emotional and would act up at unnecessary times, and even though he's not even a year, I would tell him he could stop freaking out/throwing a tantrum or I would put him on the floor/in his crib until he could calm down. After he could be calm for a little bit I would go get him and hold him. At first he would cry for a long time, but even though he's little, with consistency he learned. And now when I talk to him he understands and behaves MUCH better! So I guess depending on what form of time-out you use, you can start whenever. Kids are smarter than we realize. - of course some forms are better for older kids, any form will take a couple times until the child understands.

We'll see how my views/ideas change as Hunter gets older. ;)

Courtney said...

Good topic Kelly! So this is what we do...

We have used timeouts since our son was 1 or so. I have always heard that a good rule of thumb, and also depending on what happened, is to be in time out for every minute you are old. I year old = 1 minute, 2 year = 2 minutes. If you go longer they might forget what it was they went to timeout for, etc…

We use to do timeout in his crib with no toys. I always felt torn about this because I didn't want to associate it with sleeping. But it has never been an issue thus far. Now we just do timeout on the stairs with no toys. It is easier with having other little ones running around and not being so far away. He only goes to his room when he has really done something bad or does not stay on the stairs.

Make sure that your enforce time out directly after the undesired action so that there is a strong connection to what had been done wrong. We act immediately then afterwards come and ask, "What was done to deserve timeout" and "How we could have handled it differently" Apologizes are given if needed and, most importantly, an increase of and love and reassurance towards the child that we still love them and know that they can make a better choice next time.

Do it with no emotion. When they see you getting mad or frustrated they know what pushes your buttons and it may not be as effective.

Be consistent so that you are not sending false messages.

Make it their choice. Let them know that it is a consequence of their actions.

I have found that if timeout doesn't work anymore you can put toys in timeout instead of the child.

Make sure that the "punishment" merits that offense.

Realize that toddlers/children need to test their boundaries and you are there to help them understand what they are. A lot of times, my son will “act out” only because he wants to know if I will follow through with what I say or expect of him and his behavior at times.

We have been very consistent with the above and it works for our kids. In fact, our oldest has started reenacting “timeout processes” with his toys. Cute kid!

So...those are my jumbled thoughts on the subject! =0)

Tannie Datwyler said...

WOW! Great comments. I love what Courtney said. As always - do what is best and right for YOUR child.

I love the Love and Logic idea of bedroom time - that works really well for us. We dont' actually use a set amount of time - it is just until she can calm down. I think that having timeout not in the bedroom will work, depending on how it is monitored. I like what Erin said.

I also like the toys in timeout idea.

Fun ideas (okay, so not exactly fun, but GOOD)! Thanks ladies.

Diane said...

Oh, one thing that Courtney's commit also reminded me of is that usually when Hunter acts out, is 'bad', it's because he just wants attention! I've noticed that if I can give him the attention he needs when he starts acting out, then he doesn't go back to what he was doing that I didn't agree with, or even if he does go back to it he is more willing to listen and obey.

It goes along with a paper I found on Positive Parenting Pointers that says, "Misbehaving Children are 'sad' not 'bad': children who misbehave are most often discouraged about how to fit in and feel that they belong. When they feel their positive attempts to gain attention don't work they try negative behavior to get attention. Remembering that misbehaving children are sad helps us respond to their need for encouragement rather than punishing them." The paper also has 4 other points that go along with this, I'll just write the Topics, and if you want to know what it says about them ask and I'll add them (I don't want this to be forever long, though it already is. sorry).
2. Notice Efforts and Improvements (even if results are short of ideal)
3. Children Spell Love T-I-M-E (use one-on-one time: schedule it, make it a priority, make it unconditional)
4. Give children meaningful jobs
5. Take time for training

anyway, hope that is helpful to someone. It's helped me.

Courtney said...

AMEN Diane! I have totally found that when there is lack of attention that is when the most behavior problems arise. Crazy what a little love can do, yeh? =0)

Courtney said...

Thank you! Thank you! For that Paper post! Where can I find it?

JeriLynn said...

Hahahaha I'm not really consistent! When Liesl was about 1, we tried the corner for a bit, and that was okay. Now she's older, we let her know what the consequences are and we give her a choice. Otherwise she doesn't get a warning. When we do warn her, she just presses the line, so I've found warnings to be generally ineffective.

Usually, we just send her right to her room and let her come out when she's calm. I'm too impatient to keep track of time. Sometimes, I lock her in her room because I'm about to break something. Ha!

On The Go Family said...

Another idea I've heard is that time outs should be used in advance of bad behavior, not to follow it. In other words, if/when we see our kids getting too worked up, too tired, too (whatever) ... this is the time to re-direct, have the kid take a break, stop to talk about what's happening, etc. If we wait 'til the bad behavior is happening and use "time out" as a punishment, then it's not going to be as effective.

Easier said than done, I know from personal experience!

Jared and Delia said...

Jerilynn - I am so glad that I am not the only one who is imperfect at this. This topic is a constantly evolving one for me. When my oldest was one-ish I would put him in his crib for "misbehavior" and I did time out at 18 months. Maybe some kids need that. But I realize now that mine didn't. My expectations were much too high and unrealistic for him. I think time out can be good for helping a child recognize the importance of what they did as wrong. I still use it for that reason. If my son needs help calming down though he goes to his room. Usually I do it unruffled, but admittedly I sometimes let my emotions get to me and I "send him to his room!" Am I the only one willing to admit that or am I the only one with this problem? No one has to answer that. avoid the overuse of time out, we try to implement consequences to fit the "crime." Maybe some people will think this is cruel, but my son went through a spitting phase at 3 1/2. At first it was just gross, and then he did it to defy us when we asked him nicely to stop and explained why that wasn't nice. Well...everytime he spit (on purpose and as a way to misbehave) he got hot sauce on his tongue - just a dab does the job. We use that for bad words too. He just started experimenting with using "poop" in his vocabulary in undesirable and inappropriate ways. Oh joy. I don't know if this is the most ideal way. EVERY child is really different. Warnings work fantastic with my son but as Jerilynn expressed don't at all for her daughter.

The thing that is paramount is keeping open communication with your kids and be consistent. My son knows that what I say I mean. He can count on the fact that I won't budge and that is love. I love him enough to be stable for him. Also... Talking about why their behavior makes you feel sad and how they can make it better is helpful. Don't hang on to anger over the situation too long. Move on. of the greatest lessons...being the perfectionist that I am for myself which was spilling over onto my don't expect too much out of them. Be consistent (I sound like a broken record). Your LOVING words will eventually stick, if not a year from now. :) A year really is not THAT long. That is how far I have gotten so far though. I love reading your ideas and know I have much to learn.

I like to look at discipline ideas as another tool to add to my tool chest, because what works with one child won't with another and I can just reach into my tool chest and grab a different tool that may.

Merinda said...

As a mother with 5 children, the youngest being 16, I may seem a little old for this blog, but can always benefit from new effective training for grandchildren when they come. I also did daycare for 8 years in my home while at the tail end of raising my own from little. I found time outs effective if for no other reason than to take the child out of the situation that they are in and give if not one, maybe both of you a minute to change the mood and refocus on what needs to be dealt with at that moment. I was always taught that the rule of thumb was 1 minute for every year old the child is in time out. Usually by that time, things have calmed down a bit and can be dealt with properly. After having raised children now, whom I always made tell whomever they had offended that they were sorry, I now am getting feedback from my kids that they didn't like to have to say sorry when they weren't always sorry. I may have needed to rethink that issue. Anyway, looking forward to more issues

Tannie Datwyler said...

HOORAY!! Thanks for commenting Mindy. you are never too old for a mom blog. :)

Courtney said...

I 2nd Tannie! WELCOME MERINDA! We need all the experience we can get here! =0)

JeriLynn said...

Delia, thanks for your comments!

One thing I make sure to do, because I hate monitoring time outs, is enforce natural consequences. There is no one way to define such a thing, but here's an example: If she wants to walk in the grocery store, but she refuses to follow me, I throw her over my shoulder until she's calm enough to sit in the cart. I just wanted to emphasize, however, the natural consequences thing.

Fisher Fam said...

You're brave to let her walk in the grocery store JeriLynn - I get too worried about the chaos my little guy will bring! :) We do have LOTS of talks about consequences in this house, and probably too many warnings! And I have to say I do use timeouts, time=age just as others have said. I have an almost 3 and 1 yr old right now. I didn't start timeouts until about 2 1/2 and use the front room couch for this (it's removed from the situation and comfy, might even have a toy on it to occupy him :)). I had the same feelings about using a crib for time out as others have said and only used it in dire situations, like wanting to strangle someone ;) His room is still used that way, a place to calm down when things get too heated for either him or myself. The only different thing I have to add is the way I monitor time out. I actually have a timer that I keep on the fridge set at 2 minutes that I click after Logan is in time out. He knows when it beeps that I am coming to talk about his behavior and how we can fix it. We do the whole Super Nanny routine, if you have seen that show. Just an idea, it keeps me somewhat more consistent, and my husband can use it just as easily as I can - thanks for the great ideas so far, I'm going to have to try a few of these!

Fisher Fam said...

Oh...and I do get emotionally involved - "go to your room!" has crossed these lips on more than one occasion ;)

Diane said...

Courtney, if you want I can email you a copy of the Positive Parenting Pointers. Do you mind putting your email on here? or, if it's ok w/Delia I can just email it to the blog email and she can post it. I don't know if anyone else is interested, but it has a lot of good comments that go along with everyone's comments. I'll just go ahead and email it to the blog, and then if you add your email address, I'll send it to you too - or maybe Delia has it. Just let me know. :)

Thanks everyone for your comments! I also get emotional sometimes, and often times just have to step back and realize that Hunter is just a baby and that he doesn't fully comprehend what I'm asking, and just give him the room he needs to be a baby. (I must admit this is a lot easier to 'see' when my hubby is the one being emotional - and I think, "Wow! Chill out!" ;) and then I laugh because I'm not any better.

Kaylyn said...

Lately my 20 month old will cry and cry and nothing will clam her down, I have been putting her in her room to cry. It breaks my heart but after several minutes I go in and talk to her and then we try something new to play with or do. More than any thing putting her in her room is for me to clam down also. Like someone said before if we let our feeling in it is a lot harder to follow through.

Chris and Laura said...

My mom has seven kids of her own, did day care in our home for close to thirty years, and now is the trainer for in-home day care for the state of Utah. Since Jane is only 15 months and time-out hasn't become an issue for us yet, I called her and got her opinion on it.

The main thing she said, which goes along completely with most everyone has already said, is that it really depends on the kid. She told me about a kid she watched that learned how to manipulate the system--he would do some hugely against the rules something, then be completely content to sit in the time-out for his 7 minutes for the 7-yr-old. To him, the punishment was worth the crime. I don't think that most kids would get to that point, but it does stress the idea that while you do need to be consistent, you do have to be flexible in given situations.

It's also good to let the kid maintain some kind of control in the situation. "When you're ready to play nicely, you can have the toy back." Something like that. Let them decide when they are ready. If they make a bad choice, they have less of a choice next time--gradual loss of control for bad choices.

The other thing Mom said that I really liked was the idea of you, as the mom, giving yourself timeout. If you find yourself getting angry or very frustrated, tell your child "I'm having a hard time right now, I think I might need a timeout" then sit down quietly on the couch or a chair for a few minutes until you're calmed down. By doing that, you are not only calming yourself down, but you are modeling to the child how to take control of your own emotions and be in charge of yourself. (Did that make sense?...) That goes with what Kaylyn said.

As for my own thoughts, I agree with the idea that for most behavior, the biggest help is to figure out why they are misbehaving. Do they need attention, is there some other problem that needs to be fixed, are they just too tired... those problems are often a lot easier to fix than it is to punish a wrong behavior. Prevention is always better than punishment.

Disclaimer: This is all easy enough to say when I haven't had to really implement any of it myself. Jane is already quite adept at tantrums... timeouts may not be too far in the future...

Diane said...

Ok, I know this post is really old so I don't know if anyone will get this, but I just read this "article" and I really agree with it and think it's what I need to do w/Hunter. I'm going to print it out and pin it on my face so I always remember... ;) heehee. anyway, here's the link.