Time Out (page 2)
When faced with a child's misbehavior, parents are often uncertain what form of discipline to use. Parents may allow natural consequences to occur for some misbehaviors. For example, mistreating the cat will result in the child getting scratched. Logical consequences may be used when natural consequences are impractical, such as taking away the child's bicycle for riding it in the street. Imposing a penalty may be used for other behaviors. For example, a 25 cent fine every time the child swears.
"Time-out" is one of the most effective methods of discipline for dealing with many common childhood misbehaviors. Time-out is a brief interruption or suspension of activity that is given immediately following a child's misbehavior. The child is removed from the situation in which his or her behavior occurred, and placed in a quiet, boring area for a specific length of time. This can be a chair facing the wall or in another room.
Time-out means time-out from reinforcement, rewards, and attention. Children dislike time-out because they lose the attention they were getting and the freedom to play and interact with others. They also lose the power to anger and upset their parents.
Since time-out is swift and definite, children are less able to avoid this form of discipline, and it can be consistently used each time the misbehavior occurs. Timeout is easy for parents to learn and for children to understand. Parents report feeling less angry and upset when using this method of discipline, and they are providing a rational, nonaggressive model of behavior for their children.
The short term goal of time-out is to immediately stop problem behaviors. The long term benefit is that it helps children learn self discipline.
Time-out is not the only form of discipline that can be used in dealing with misbehavior, nor should it be used for all kinds of misbehaviors. Time-out is most effective when used with children 2 to 11 years old, and with misbehaviors which are aggressive, hostile, emotional or impulsive. Some examples of misbehaviors that can be effectively dealt with using time-out are hitting, kicking, biting, throwing things, "talking back", temper tantrums, or doing something dangerous, such as running into the street.
Time-out should not be used to deal with misbehaviors such as irritability, forgetting or failing to do chores or homework, or for behaviors not directly observed by the parent.
Some guidelines for using time-out include:
- Make sure the child understands what behaviors are not acceptable, and the consequences for doing them.
- Don't begin using time-out on all of the child's misbehaviors. The child might spend all day in time-out! Select specific misbehaviors for time-out to begin with.
- The length of time for time-out can vary, depending on the seriousness of the misbehavior. A good general rule is 1 minute for each year of the child's age.
- Give time-out only for misbehavior observed by the parent.
- In order to be effective, time-out should be given immediately (within 30 seconds of the misbehavior), and consistently (each time the misbehavior occurs).
- After time-out is completed, ask the child to say why he or she was given time-out, and what should have been done instead of the misbehavior.
More information on time-out and discipline can be found in the book, "SOS! Help for Parents", by Lynn Clark Ph.D., or call the Trinity Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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