Parenting: Time Outs Don't Work

Time Outs are the main form of discipline for many families. Parents use time outs to help shape their child's behavior, yet time outs don't work - here's why:


Little Johnny hits Little Mary:

Resolution 1:

Mommy grabs little Johnny and puts him on a time out hoping he will learn that hitting results in time outs for him. She then comforts Little Mary.

But does Little Johnny learn that hitting results in time outs for him? While he's sitting on time out is he really thinking about what he did to Little Mary or how unfair it is that he's sitting on time out while Little Mary gets cuddles. Does he feel empathy or concern for Little Mary while he watches mommy take care of her or does he resent her more?

Let's think about it from a Little Johnny viewpoint. We all know children are selfish little creatures who want what they want when they want it.... right! After all that's probably why Johnny hit Mary in the first place. It isn't automatically in them to feel sorry for what they've done because it hurt someone else or to be concerned for someone else. They may be sorry for hitting but mainly because it put them on time out and they didn't want to be there.

By putting Little Johnny on time out mommy has done two things. 1. Saved Little Johnny from getting hit by Little Mary. 2. Made a victim out of Little Mary by not allowing her to stand up for herself.

Resolution 2:

Why did Little Johnny hit Little Mary? Is Johnny a mean spirited little boy that did it just to get Little Mary to cry? Most likely NO - Little Mary probably had something he wanted or did something that upset little Johnny and the only way he knew how to deal with the feeling was to hit her. Little Mary probably has learned what buttons to push to get what she wants and to get rid of Little Johnny for a little while.... Mommy will step in and save me!!!!

By putting Little Johnny on time out the mommy has done two things.... One made Little Johnny resent Little Mary and feel sorry for himself - in his mind he's the victim in all this. Two - Little Mary is being rewarded for being a victim and displaying victim behavior. She's getting cuddles for making Johnny mad and getting hit.

If mommy had talked to Little Johnny and found out why he hit her she may discover that Little Mary did something to upset him. At this point mommy could help Little Johnny figure out a different way of reacting by asking him - "Johnny what should you have done?" or "Hitting isn't the way to get what you want - What could you say or do to get what you want?" "How do you think Mary feels when you want something she's playing with?" "What could you have played with until Mary was finished playing with that toy?" Mommy can take the time to help Little Johnny through the thought process she is hoping he is doing on his own while on time out. It is not good enough to say -"Sit there and think about what you've done." They don't know how to think about it outside of themselves.

If Little Mary has indeed done something to push Little Johnny's buttons then mommy can deal directly with Little Mary to help her learn to get what she wants without being a victim. "Mary did you want Little Johnny to hit you?" "Did you want Little Johnny to get into trouble?" "Why did you say such and such or do that then?" "If you wanted the toy Little Johnny was playing with what else could you do to get it?" "How do you think Little Johnny feels when you .....?"

By taking the extra time to find out the reason behind the action and teaching them to think better conflict resolution techniques a parent can foster a closer relationship between the children. Instead of resenting Mary Little Johnny would learn how to play better with Little Mary. Instead of learning victim behavior Little Mary would learn how to stick up for herself and how to play better with Little Johnny.

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