Saturday, April 27, 2013

Toddler Tactic #6 - Time-In

The "time-out" is a tactic frequently used on misbehaving children.  Child A pushes child B and consequently receives a solo journey to a corner of the room or another room entirely to think about the error of their ways.

This response has always seemed problematic to me for a couple reasons.  First of all, I don't want to send the message that misbehaving results in the withdrawal of my love and affection.  Second, a child in time-out is not likely to actually spend any time at all pondering their actions or how they affected anyone else involved. A child in time-out is most likely sulking, feeling angry at mum for being so mean or simply daydreaming about something more pleasant than facing a wall.  Finally, time-out is a punishment and while fear of punishment may prevent some children from exhibiting certain behaviors in the future, it does not deal with the more important issue of why a child was behaving unpleasantly in the first place.

To get around all these problems of time-outs, we've taken to using "time-ins." The time-in is a discipline technique that helps to calm an unruly child and get to the root of the problem.  A while back we had visitors over and near the end of the visit, Riker was getting increasingly frustrated with his toys and eventually he just laid down on the carpet and wailed while asking for help to get up, only to keep falling right down on the floor again.  This was a little embarrassing for us as Riker rarely throws tantrums and we both felt frustrated that this was happening while we had guests.

To find out what was going on, Brian scooped him up and took him to the bedroom so that he could help him to calm down and then find out what was going on with him.  He carried on wailing for a while but then Brian learned that he hadn't gone to the toilet all morning and was clearly feeling increasingly miserable and out of sorts. With his nanny visiting and bringing him gifts and then a neighbor popping by coupled with some jealousy issues from seeing Ari nursing, it was all adding up to be too much for the poor guy. His unpleasant behavior was a manifestation of some difficult emotions and sensations he was experiencing and we may not have found the reason for his unpleasant behavior had we used a more traditional means of getting him to cease that behavior. 

The time-in is useful because the parent remains with the child and helps them to find ways to successfully and positively regulate their own emotions. More importantly, it allows the parent to play detective and find out the reasons behind the misbehavior instead of punishing the child for the resulting actions.

Of course, all this isn't to say that time-outs don't have their place.... fact I firmly believe that leaving irritating situations behind in order to collect oneself and eat chocolate alone in the bedroom is a perfectly acceptable and sensible thing to do!

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