The modern parenting advice of the past two decades has been predominantly child-centric, emphasizing the child, the child’s thoughts, the child’s reactions, the child’s preference, the child’s ego, the child’s self-esteem and more. Certainly, these aspects are, should be and always will be important factors. An over-emphasis on these factors; however, results in the parent yielding the central role and serving the child’s world, which is not always a positive. Yielding the center role to the child results in a question of who is serving the dominant role of teacher, provider, authority and decision-maker.
Bonnie Harris, parenting counselor, speaker, author and columnist expresses in her book why the “time-out” has limited usefulness and limited effect, stating “We can fool ourselves into believing that we are behaving in our children’s best interest when we force them to do and be what we want. In doing so, we risk their needs for the sake of putting an end to our frustration, impatience or rage. We work hard at training our children to be who we want them to be. Some children acquiesce and some don’t. The ones who don’t are our teachers.”
The “time-out” is basically an immediate behavior modification by the adult with the intent that a more long-term behavior change will result. The intent is a worthy goal; however, the immediate handling of a “time out” needs some agreed upon basics to be effective. Ken Merrell, Ph.D., School Psychology Program, University of Iowa cites some common pitfalls:
* “Time-out” can be misused and abused if the procedure is implemented in erratic ways. Consistency and sameness are crucial.
* Under no circumstances should “time-out” be implemented and decision-making left to the child, such as “when you can behave”, “when you apologize”, “when you calm down”, “when you can share”, and so on. These scenarios are invitations to a power struggle with the child, and usually the adult prevails by force of will or anger. or in the exact childish behavior that caused the time-out.
*Repeating explanations and threats reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of a “time-out.” State the explanation once and carry out the “time-out” by dominance without delay, negotiation, or compromise. The possibility of a power struggle is increased unless the action is immediate and firm.
The “time-out” can be quite ineffective or even harmful if not clearly understood and implemented properly. Further, by definition a “time-out” is a reaction response rather than positive initiation of teaching and guidance. The time for “time-outs” is passing from the scene.
When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, Grand Central Publishing (July 1, 2004