By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
A time-out is something one takes or is given when one needs a break from their surroundings. A time-out is what we need when we're sad and want to be alone. It's useful when we are feeling hurt and don't know what to say. A time-out is valuable when we're confused and don't know what to do. A time-out is an opportunity to reenergize and get ready to effectively address the situation at hand.
Children need time to calm their minds and relax their bodies when they’re frustrated. So do adults. Adults as well as children can use a break from the world around them when they are angry or frustrated. They need an opportunity to get themselves ready to learn a new skill or face a problem. They need time to get back into a solution-seeking mind-set.
The concept of taking time out as it was originally designed was an attempt to give children time to cool down. Its purpose was to provide a safe space and time for a child to calm herself. Adults need that safe place to calm themselves as well. This can be achieved by taking a walk, riding your bike, or closing the bathroom door. It can be created through gardening, mowing the grass, or hiring a babysitter for an hour.
But how do you know when it is time for a time-out? How can you tell when it would be helpful to enter time-out mode? Check the following guidelines. Here you will find ten ways to tell when taking time out would be helpful.
Are you yelling? Is the volume of your voice escalating rapidly? Have you forgotten that increasing the volume of an ineffective verbal skill only makes it a loud, ineffective verbal skill? When you hear yourself yelling, be assured that it is time for a time-out. Yours.
Are you feeling anxious? Do you have knots in the pit of your stomach? Is anxiety racing through your body? Do you feel your stomach muscles tightening as you prepare to deal with the latest behavior chosen by your child? If so, you could benefit by granting yourself permission to take a time-out.
Do you have a strong need to be in control? Are you regularly bossing your children, ordering them about, and telling them what to do? Are you having trouble letting them do it their way? If so, you are overfunctioning and need a break. Give yourself a time-out.
Have you noticed that you are not mentally present when you are physically present? Have you been thinking about other things when you play with your children? Are you preoccupied with your adult agenda when you are with them? Then it is time for a time-out.
Do you find yourself coming up with new ways to keep your kids occupied, distracted, or entertained? In other words, are you creating or buying things they can do so you can keep them out of your hair? Parental expediency—doing what is easiest for you, what meets your needs—does not always meet the needs of your children. It is a sign that a parental time-out is in order.
Have you been hearing any sarcasm come out of your mouth lately? Sarcasm is not funny. It is not a joke. It is a thinly veiled putdown that mocks your child and prevents them from receiving honest, open, descriptive feedback. It is a sure sign that you could use a timeout.
Have you struck your child recently? Hitting—yes, this includes spanking—is a major indicator that the time is ripe for you to be in time-out. If you are hitting children, you need to get a grip, get yourself under control, get your temper in check, take control of your runaway ego, and move from the animal part of your brain to the frontal lobe, where reasoning, solution-seeking, planning, and listening can occur. Time out is a good place for that to happen.
Are you playing the blame game? Are you good at finding fault in your children without looking inward to see what role you played in creating the current situation? Blaming exhausts your present moments and keeps you from searching for solutions. Take a time-out and use it to reorganize your thinking.
Are you using inappropriate language? You know what words we mean. The ones that you don’t want your children saying, the ones they get in trouble for using at school. Watch your language. When you hear yourself use one of these inappropriate words, take a turn in time-out. Use that time effectively by coming up with appropriate synonyms.
Have you been engaged in the exact behaviors you want to eliminate in your children? Do you threaten them to stop threatening their sister? Do you tease them about their teasing, hit them so they will stop hitting, yell so they will talk more softly, or bite them to show them how it feels to be bitten? Stop. Proceed immediately to time out.
Use time out to calm down, get centered, and relax. When you can see things differently, from a new perspective, you are ready to return. Focus on solution-seeking, listening, and creating mutual understanding. Take a teaching stance first. If consequences are called for, use them with an open heart. Come from a space of love and caring. Leave anger, annoyance, and frustration back in time-out. Let the child be the child. You be the adult.
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