Time-out didn’t work in my home. I followed the “rules”. I placed my son in time-out for one minute per each year of his age. I did not engage with him other than to replace him back in time-out during his punishment. Once he had served his time, I asked him what he had done wrong that got him placed in time-out, and once he repeated it back to me, we moved on with our day – until the next time-out which was never too far away.
If it ever did stop one poor behavior, another cropped up right in its place. His behavior got worse, his spirit grew dim, and the disconnection between us was widening. That is why I began to seek out alternatives. After my paradigm shift to positive parenting, I found time-in to be an effective tool to both connect with my child and redirect his behavior.
The paradigm shift was an important step to allowing me to see my child through a new lens. When I practiced traditional parenting, I saw every “misbehavior” as an infraction that needed to be addressed and squashed immediately, lest he get “out of hand.” I bought into the idea that children were seeking control and would take over the house and try to rule over me if I didn’t maintain strict authority. Indeed, that was a very sad way to view my child.
Through study of child development and even more so through stopping to look into my son’s eyes when he was upset, I came to adopt a much different view of my child, of all children. I see “out of sync behavior” as a call for help, a clue that the internal state of a child is off balance and needs addressed. I saw that he was a good person and wanted to do good things. He wanted to please us and be connected. He wanted to know he was valued and where he fit in. Once I saw my child differently, it was easy to relate with him differently.
This difference in the positive parenting view of children from the traditional view became clear to me when a comment was made on my previous article, 3 Alternatives to Time Out That Work. This person believed that the practice of time-in would cause the child to misbehave to get the “reward” of parental attention. It’s true that children do crave attention and connection, and I suppose if the only way a child can get it is through poor behavior, she will resort to that. But how is this the child’s fault?
If attention and love is only given during a time-in, there is something fundamentally wrong in the relationship dynamic in the first place. Children should be given lots of positive attention and affection every day, and if we are doing that, there will never be a need to “misbehave to get attention.”
Furthermore, if we are already close and connected with that child, then the time-in allows them to focus on our instructions rather than being defensive against us. Bringing a child into safe and loving arms to help him calm down and learn to manage himself through emotional storms is not coddling or rewarding, it’s teaching. Isn’t that what parenting is?
I think, culturally, we need to move past the idea that too much love rewards or spoils children. This idea damages our relationships and leads us to treat unfairly those who are newest among us. Children do not enter the world with bad intentions. They do not come to wear us out, test our limits, or seek control. They come with a need for love and guidance.
In 5 years of practicing positive parenting, I have never found that love drives misbehavior, but that the opposite true. Love allows them to grow into their full potential.
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