Recently, there was a thread on a message board about time outs. People were pretty preachy as they knocked parents who do give time outs. At least the posters gave all sorts of helpful advice on alternative methods of teaching appropriate behavior, such as: talk to your kids and explain the issues with their behavior, allow for natural consequences, and give positive reinforcements.
Positive reinforcement! Why didn’t I think of that?
I think it is worth stating that some kids listen beautifully when told to do something, are aghast at disappointing their parents, and respond well to reason. My eldest is just like that.
And some kids think it is hysterical when they are admonished not to do something, drink in the praise for good behavior without one bit of abatement in the daily routine of beating their older brothers over the head with an ice cream scoop for fun, and periodically shove their baby sisters flat on their backs for daring to play with a toy. My middle is just like that.
I like to think the eldest behaves as he does because we are stellar parents. Clearly the middle was just born that way. The only thing that has helped is the combination of sticker charts for good behavior, praise, repeated visits to “the unkindness chair,” and a good healthy dose of activity. But the time outs are a part of setting clear limits with this charming but rambunctious kid.
Time outs work. They are time away from a situation to calm the child down. They are consequences for something egregious (because the only “natural consequence” to shoving a 10 month old and taking her toy is that the three-year-old gets the toy). They are a physical demonstration that the behavior is unacceptable for a kid who doesn’t really care how often you sit down and discuss behavior with him eye-to-eye.
Do not assume that just because a parent uses time-outs, she or he is not also praising positive behavior. Do not assume that the parents are simply “punishing.” There is nothing wrong with discipline.
We all parent differently, sometimes differently for each kid because each kid calls for different methods. My job is not to raise a child; it is to raise an adult. And an adult who thinks he can get away with violent behavior is not my goal.