Children: what is the "time-out" technique and what it consists of

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Catherine Le Nevez
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The "time-out" technique is certainly a brilliant solution for some parents: in fact, when a child spends a few minutes sitting alone, he becomes calm and cooperative. Still, others say it doesn't work: this is because their children, when forced to "time-out", cry and call mom and dad instead of sitting quietly or get even more agitated.

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"Time-out", what is it

The "time-out", in the context of parenting, is equivalent to the temporary removal of a child from an environment in which unacceptable behavior has occurred. The goal is to remove him from a pleasant context, thus encouraging him to remove the offensive behavior. It is an educational and parenting technique recommended by some pediatricians and developmental psychologists as an effective form of discipline.

If you remember the classic "Sit in that corner!" or "Get behind the blackboard!", then know that those were and are forms of "time-out". In fact, often a corner of the house or a similar space is chosen in which the child must stand in silence, standing or sitting, for a few minutes during the "time-outs".

However, according to a recent study by the "Oregon Health and Science University" in Portland (USA), 85% of parents who use the "time-out" strategy make mistakes that reduce the success of this educational technique.

The errors are as follows:

  • moms and dads sometimes give too many warnings
  • during the "time-out", they talk to their children
  • they let them play with toys.

If you want to learn this technique to educate your child, it helps to understand how to make it really effective and how you can adopt all the tactics that are part of it.

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"Time-out", where it originates from

The term "time-out" became popular in the United States thanks to a reality show called Supernanny, but the technique was first developed in the XNUMXs as a more humane alternative to the harsh punishments that were common at the time.

The concept of "time-out" was invented in 1958 by the researcher Arthur Staats, now retired at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, when teachers and principals still systematically slapped children and parents spanked or whipped their children.

Nowadays, the video of a child being slapped in school goes viral quickly because it is considered shocking and most parents have fortunately adopted an educational approach that is not based on corporal punishment in recent years. After all, decades of research have shown that children who have been regularly spanked as young children are more likely to become aggressive when they are older, to suffer from anxiety and depression, or to engage in substance abuse.

But "time-out" isn't always beneficial. "When the child has a tantrum or an emotional breakdown, he may be overwhelmed by what he feels and unable to control his emotions," said Daniel J. Siegel, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine ". Rather than having him sit in a chair in the corner right away, it's important to let him know that you are in tune with what he is feeling.

Furthermore, most experts believe that "time-outs" are effective as long as they are used correctly and in the right situations and especially with children over the age of 3. "They should be reserved for particular pranks that can put the child or someone else at risk of getting hurt or in danger, for example," said Ari Brown, pediatrician and writer.

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The most common mistakes when using the "time-out"

  1. It is wrong to use it too often. Despite widespread belief, it is not true that "time-outs" cause children to reflect through the troubles they have made. "A time-out is primarily a strategy that avoids making the situation worse," said Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., parenting counselor. «Learning begins after the" time-out "».
  2. Give attention to children during "time-out". Young children crave adult attention, and even "negative attention" may be enough for them, Kennedy-Moore explained. Paying attention to a child's misbehavior can encourage him to behave even more incorrectly. In this regard, Dr. Brown stated that "time-out" is simply the lack of parental attention for a short period of time that allows a child to notice that her behavior has led him to lose his life. attention from parents instead of getting it.

  3. Using them for the wrong reasons. Research by Oklahoma State University in Stillwater has found that time-outs work best on young children who are provocative and who intentionally do the opposite of what is being asked, but only if you have first tried to give them milder answers. When a child is put into "time-out" for wrong reasons or if this technique is used too often, their behavior could worsen according to Professor Robert E. Larzelere, Ph.D., expert in "Family Sciences". On the other hand, young children who complain about food or are spending too much time on the iPad respond better to other approaches. In these types of situations, other tactics should be considered instead.

"Time-out", le alternative

What are the alternatives to "time-out"? Here are some of them:

  1. Identify and reinforce positive behaviors, like, for example, playing softly and speaking kindly. This was suggested by Mandi Silverman, a clinical psychologist at the "ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center" at the "Child Mind Institute" in New York City. So, praise or offer rewards when the little ones have these behaviors, telling them, "Bravo, you are playing great with your toys!" or giving small stickers or various gifts.
  2. Use the right sentences. Instead of saying to your child in an authoritative way: "We can stay on the playground for another five minutes, but only if you put our shoes back on", you can invite them to cooperate by saying: "If you put your shoes back on, we can stay on the playground for others. five minutes".
  3. "Strike when the iron is cold". Explain to the child, when he is quiet, the following statement: "Don't throw toys at each other because doing so is very dangerous."

"Time-out", 5 basic steps

A long time has passed since Dr. Staats first wrote about "time-outs" and psychologists and scholars have changed them for the better, making them both sweeter and more effective. Here are the various aspects that currently distinguish an effective "time-out" technique.

  1. Give the child a clear warning before proceeding with the "time-out". A single warning, without subsequent repetitions, before each "time-out" is able to reduce the number of "time-outs" required by 74% according to prof. Larzelere. If the child does not start collaborating within five seconds, then proceed with the "time-out".
  2. Announce the application of the "time-out". After the child is in trouble, briefly reiterate what he did wrong and walk him to the chair in the corner. Many experts advise against sending him to his room, because there he has toys, books and other fun things. Resist the temptation to teach him: it is okay to offer an explanation before the "time-out" or after, but not during. If you do, know that you are paying attention to the baby rather than taking it off. Any attention, even negative, can act as a reward rather than a consequence.
  3. Start the clock timer. Dr. Staats initially suggested letting the children stay in "time-out" until they stopped fidgeting, even if that meant holding them for half an hour. Today, many parents use the "one minute for every year of a child" rule. However, recent research by Timothy Vollmer, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, shows that even short periods of one to three minutes are effective, at least for children ages 3 to 5.
  4. Make "time-out" boring for the little one. During the "time-out", do not talk to your child and do not make eye contact with them. Being silent can take some practice for you, especially if your child says things like "You're the worst mom in the world!" or he says "Can I have a glass of water?" No matter what he asks or says the child during the "time-out", you ignore him.
  5. When the timer goes off, mark the end of the "time-out". It doesn't matter if your child is still restless or crying. Once the timer goes off, the "time-out" is over. How do you know if the "time-outs" are working? If you start following these steps, within a week or three you should find yourself using them less and less. In this regard, Dr. Larzelere said: «If you announce a" time-out "and do what you say, the children will learn to listen».

If the child refuses to go into "time-out"

What happens if the child does not want to go into "time-out"? Here are three ways parents can behave.

  1. Offer a choice. The child must choose whether to cooperate or lose a privilege, such as, for example, the time spent in front of the television. If he decides not to "time out", say, "Okay, then no TV" and walk away.
  2. Offer him some free time in which he can behave well. You might say to him, "The 'time-out' is normally three minutes, but if you go now and sit quietly, it will be two minutes."
  3. Challenge yourself. If your child is still safe in the environment you are in or there is another adult, go to your room. Or say, "I'm not going to talk to you for three minutes because you slapped your brother."

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What you can do while the child is in "time-out"

Try to do what you would normally do, but always stay close enough to him to know if he is doing something dangerous or trying to get out of his chair. No one should pay attention to your child while he is in "time-out". Don't look at him, don't talk to him, don't touch him. Make sure that the brothers and sisters also do not know him while he is in "time-out".

Putting two children in "time-out"

When two children fight, knowing who started it is less important than putting both of them on time-out for misbehavior. If you blame the wrong one, you run the risk of "punishing" the wrong child. Make sure you have the two little ones stay in different areas for "time-out".

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Putting a toy into "time-out"

If your child is misusing a toy, for example, by throwing it, you can consider putting the toy in "time-out" (and not the child). It is a way to teach your child self-control and reduce bad behavior without making your child spend too much time in "time-out". To do this, just take the toy away. After the minutes have passed, tell the child why the toy was in "time-out" and ask your child to repeat it to you.

FONTI: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;;

  • children education
  • time-out
  • 3-5 children years
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