How to Apply Time-out In Your Home (continued)
Sample Family Challenges in Implementing Time-out
While the time-out concept and approach are pretty straightforward, applying them can be challenging. The following samples from other families illustrate ways to address some such challenges:
The first time that we sent our son to time-out he stayed a long time. Later he told us he didn’t think he could really come out when he was ready – because we used to tell him to stay until we told him he could come out. What are your thoughts about this?
It is unlikely that your son’s misunderstanding will cause any problem for him or you except that you don’t have the opportunity to welcome him back to the family in a timely manner. Chances are that once your child fully understands the new arrangement, things will go fine, and you may not need to take any action. Talk with him again and stress that he is to come to you to check so that you can know when he is calm. If your son still remains confused, consider changing the time-out area to emphasize the new arrangement. When you do so, consider changing the name from “time-out” to “quiet place” or some other acceptable term, to further stress the changes. Otherwise, I think you can feel good about the fact that your son – and therefore you – are succeeding in the use of time-out.
Maya, who is eight, responds well to time-out with her dad and even with her teacher, but when I try to send her there, she whines and fusses for what seems like hours. What can I do?
When children regularly respond significantly differently from one person or situation to another, it means that they have learned that they can best meet their needs by matching their behavior to the differences in the situation. Maya appears to have concluded that calming herself works best when sent to time-out by her dad or teacher and that whining or fussing works best with you even though you surely did not mean to teach her that. As discouraging as that is, it is good that your child has demonstrated the internal resources required to regain suitable control when guided and motivated to do so.
Your challenge is to learn to guide Maya to calm herself when you send her to time-out. Review the discussion above of the elements of time-out, concentrating on how to avoid responding to whining and fussing. Once you have all that clear in your mind, observe and talk with Maya’s father to determine what is different in his handling of time-out. When you know the adjustments you need to make, talk with your daughter. Tell her that you are pleased that she is doing so well with her dad and her teacher and that you are sorry that things haven’t yet gone as well with you but that you intend to make some changes so that they will. Then tell her you are going to handle things differently from now on, alluding to using her dad’s approach if you are comfortable with that idea. The rest is a matter of following through on what you know is required for you to be effective. Again, she has demonstrated she can respond well; therefore success is at hand.
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The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed.
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You say it’s a good idea to have a child come out of time-out when he feels calm, but we think our son should apologize when he comes out. How can we work that in?
Children, as is true for adults, are not always at their best and therefore need adult supervision and guidance to foster responsible behavior. When they err, it is important that parents are there to get them back on track. The time-out approach is designed to end inappropriate behavior by eliminating inadvertent reinforcement and to allow children to regain their composure. A demand for apology in this context risks casting a negative shadow over an otherwise positive exchange. Perhaps the biggest risk is that children would recognize that they could get out of time-out by apologizing even when they don’t mean it – in effect, teaching them that dishonesty can pay off.
Clearly children should come to understand that some behaviors are unacceptable. Still, there is little to gain and much to lose by making them feel bad about themselves for sometimes failing to live up to what they are learning. Apologies, then, might best be reserved for when a child genuinely feels sad or sorry for a specific behavior and can be encouraged by a parent to apologize as a way to resolve such feelings.