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Ending Time Out (Part 2)

picture of relaxing is used to represent the environment of appropriate timeout

Let's continue the conversation about time out.  In the last post I said there were two issues with time out that I wanted to explore with you:

1.) Time out is not a catchall consequence for all behaviors, it has a specific purpose.
2.) Time out should be called time away, and this is not a minor distinction.

We covered "Time out is not a Catchall" in Part 1, and if you have not read it yet, I encourage you to read that one first.  I essentially explained that time out should be used strategically as a method of teaching, not a punitive consequence.  In this post we will explore the branding behind the term "Time Away" as opposed to "Time Out".

Time Out should be called Time Away

Remember that discipline should be all about helping our children to learn appropriate behaviors, while still meeting their needs.  It is easy to take this philosophy and think that time out really should be used often.  It appears to teach them that when they are unable to maintain their behavior they should step out of the limelight and have a quick reset, but because of the way we use it, it often fails to do this.

We need to consider the need behind the behaviors.  All behaviors stem from a need, and needs come in a certain order.  Maslow identified that we must establish our most basic needs like food and water before we can really even process higher needs like self esteem.  A sense of belonging is so basic that it comes right after our need for safety.  When we use time out we are communicating that our children don't belong with other people, they don't even belong with us.  This means that any use of isolation should only be used when the issue we are addressing is so important that we are willing to challenge their sense of belonging in the family.  Ideally these are only issues that fit in the two categories below "belonging", leaving the intervention as a useful tactic for addressing health and safety issues only.

A change in language can help us to use a similar technique without limiting us quite so much.  Time out is established in our minds, and the minds of our children, as a punitive time of forced isolation in response to unacceptable behavior.  Time away, is a new term and allows us to establish new ground rules without fighting tradition and bias.

Time away is a time for our children to step away from a situation without being "out" of the family.  Away, is intuitively temporary as well.  I know that may sound like simple word play, but it can be a powerful re-framing tool for the child and a powerful reminder of the consequence's purpose to adults.  Time away is not isolation, approved useful items and even people may join them for their time away.  Time away ends when they check back in rather then at a set arbitrary time.  This helps them to know that they can still approach their parents, even when they are in trouble.  The parents can help them to process if they are really ready to resume regular activities.  This processing can help them to learn their own rhythms and needs, eventually leading to the ability to self regulate.

I could go into much more detail, but I want to keep these posts short and approachable.

Please leave your comments below, if you have questions I can address I will do my best to help you out with an answer.  The Art of Family is all about helping you practice the art of "family" like the verb that it is.  You can help us out by sharing this site with other parents that you know.  Thank you for your precious time!


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