Kids Are Not Cookies

Time Aparts, Not Time Outs

Kids are not cookies, and cookie cutter approaches are not effective. Understanding the effects of timeouts, and the theory and reasoning behind them will help us as adults make best decisions on helping our youth.

We must recognize that most kids who “act out” do so, because they are unable to verbalize their thoughts and emotions. They are in crisis, and they respond with fight, flight, or freeze. The others who act out may have witnessed the inappropriate behavior, which has been ignored and/or brought them attention, money, fame, etc.

We must listen. Actively. To our children, and one another. Then we create an action plan, and create “policies and budgets” that help us bring that plan to fruition.


Excerpts from the linked article by Claire Gillespie

“If (the child) leave(s) the spot before time is up, you must take them back, as often as necessary — while refusing to engage in any conversation. When the timer goes off, you reiterate why they were there, tell them to apologize for their behavior and give them hugs and kisses so they know you still love them.”

“Parenting experts have criticized the timeout technique in recent years, saying that it might neglect a child’s emotional needs. Most experts agree that punishment is harmful to a child’s emotional development and that isolation — the defining quality of the timeout technique — is a form of punishment.”

“Children experience feelings of isolation and abandonment when placed in time out… There is loss of contact, which can also be interpreted as loss of a parent’s love, especially for younger children. Kids who are sent to their room often believe their isolation is a result of being bad enough that parents do not want to be around them.”

“(Timeouts) can be particularly risky for kids who have a predisposition to anxiety…isolation may increase their fears, and the more anxious they become, the more likely they may be to exhibit behavioral outbursts, such as destroying their toys or room during a timeout.”

“Healthy humans are social creatures… We rely on others for physical survival and emotional support, which means when we are involuntarily cut off from other human beings, psychologically painful feelings of loneliness and anxiety arise. In children, this is amplified by their belief that they are helpless in the world without their parents to help them. The threat of separation from those who protect them can cause severe anxiety and psychological discomfort in a child.”

“…regular reliance on the timeout technique can have long-lasting negative effects. “A child who experiences frequent threats of (or actual) abandonment by their parent will build a model of the world in which they have no firm anchor of support,” Haas writes. “They have learned they must conform to the views of others in order to survive, and are thus more likely to grow up feeling insecure and powerless.”

“Kids don’t have the advanced cognitive skills to think abstractly… Emotional modulation and regulation occurs with development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which doesn’t fully develop until adolescence.” This means putting a child by themselves in a timeout situation and telling them to think about what they’ve done is generally a waste of time. “If you ask the child why they are in timeout, they usually say ‘I don’t know,’”

“Many parenting experts advocate “time-in” as a healthier behavior strategy. It involves sitting with your children when they misbehave, talking them through their emotions and helping them to learn to harness those big feelings they don’t yet understand.”

“To help a child grasp why their behavior is not appropriate, (go) to the child’s eye level, (speak)in a calm, soft voice, (explain) what the child is doing and why they shouldn’t do it, and (suggest) an acceptable alternative.”

“Some kids can be overstimulated or overwhelmed by the emotions of those around them, which may lead them to respond in ways that can be misconstrued as defiance or misbehavior. However, if timeouts are used as a way to give the child a calmer environment, the parent should remain with the child at all times, and maintain a calm, loving demeanor to help them calm down.”

“It can be helpful to remove the child from the party or movie or play or whatever is causing the problem and go to a place which is more quiet and calm… Hopefully, the parent will be open to hearing the child’s point of view about the situation and open to trying to understand why they did what they did.”

“The parent can then calmly explain why they thought the child’s behavior was inappropriate or dangerous. This is an opportunity for both the parent and child to better understand each other and learn from each other — an opportunity which is missed if the parent chooses to isolate themselves from their child.”

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