It’s incredible how many parents I hear saying “I don’t punish my children – well except for Time outs of course!”
The “Time out” has somehow become an accepted and common form of discipline, and many parents believe it is a gentle and effective option. Most feel that it is not even in the same realm as physical punishment, especially as it is prescribed by so many so called “parenting experts” such as Supernanny.
But is it really the harmless option it is thought by so many to be?
Gorden Neufeld Ph.D, author of Hold On to Your Kids, has this to say on the subject:
“The withdrawal of closeness (or threatening its loss) is such an effective means of behavior control because it triggers the child’s worst fear – that of being abandoned. If contact and closeness were not important to the toddler or older child, separation from us would have very little impact.”
He goes on to say:
“In all cases, the child’s response will come from a state of anxiety, but how the child shows that will depend on his particular way of attaching. A child who is used to preserving contact with the parent by being “good” will desperately promise never to transgress again. His attempt to regain connection will be a stream of “I’m sorry’s.” The child whose way of staying close is through affectionate gestures and words will, when he feels his attachment threatened by the parent, become full of “I love you’s” – that will be her mode of restoring proximity. If physical contact is paramount, the child may become clingy for a few hours, not wanting to let you out of her sight. The point for parents to understand is that these manifestations do not represent genuine understanding or contrition, only the anxiety of the child trying to reestablish the relationship with the parent. It is naïve to think that by such methods we are teaching children a lesson or making them consider the error of their ways.”
So there you have it. It is easy to see why so many people think that Time outs are effective – after all, the response from the child is often drastic, and it may appear that they really have learned a lesson. But what is really going on is not learning, nor discipline, but simply fear on the child’s part.
When we see it from this point of view, there can be no question that Time out is indeed a harmful and harsh punishment, one that should be avoided at all costs for the sake of our children and maintaining our connected and loving relationship with them.
For practical discipline solutions that prioritise the relationship and connection between parent and child, I recommend reading my book, Trust Me I’m a Toddler.
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