Man, the kids are acting up! Fighting, biting, screaming something has to give because I can’t consistently be the referee and I need to hear myself think. So time out! Go sit in your room. Or stand in the corner and think about what you did. That’s the most peaceful way to go about it, right? When I was a kid it could have been a spanking or being grounded for a week, so a quick time out is a step up. But what is a time out actually teaching our kids?

I know in our adult mind if someone told us to go sit and think about what we did we would play the record over and over again thinking of ways to make it better, or talking about how bad a person we are for doing ‘x’ thing. But the kid before the age of seven hasn’t even developed the part do their brain that’s responsible for reasoning, being able to use words vs acting out or making meaning to the vast amount of information they are exposed to. So, if our adult reasoning for a time out is to have them consider what they did is not ok, then are they actually connecting the two, or are we sending a different message to them entirely?

Follow me for a moment.  What if we have been taught to send them away so they can reflect and realise why they should be sorry for there behaviour is actually teaching our kids that we only love them when…or they are only a part of the family as long as they don’t do….or you are not an acceptable person with these traits? What if they take the time out as just straight rejection? That they are being rejected based off of their behaviour.


What kind of message are we sending?

When I was first introduced to this perspective my heart dropped into my stomach. The last thing I would ever want my children to feel is conditional love and rejection, especially coming from their mother. Now, it’s no secret that the world we live in today is not how it was 100, 300, or 1000 years ago. Things have changed drastically and so have we as a society. But what is still deeply imbedded in our human brain is tribal heritage. Everyone had a role within the tribe. Everyone worked together for the better good, safety and survival of the tribe. If someone was banished or rejected from that tribe for whatever reason it was most likely a death sentence as there goes the safety and security. That was the ultimate punishment in those times. Fast forward to modern times. Those in prison what’s their ultimate punishment… Isolation! As human being we need human contact and these forms of rejection strip that away. And buried deep down rejection equals death. Also, a lot of us choose to do or not do something simply based on the fear of being rejected. I don’t want to voice my opinion because possible rejection could crush me, or even in some cultures, currently voicing an opinion that does not mesh with how things are can quite possibly lead to death. So, in the same way are time out’s sending the same message to our kids? Are we shaping them to fear rejection from such an early age that by adulthood anything that can lead to rejection as a possibility is avoided?

Of course time outs are not stripping the child from all human contact, throwing them into a dark cell or causing death but could the message we send by doing them be telling them that they do not belong?  You are not welcome in this family like that. Change or ship out. Man how many times did I hear that as a child. Live by my rules or leave. Confirm to what I perceive as ok and acceptable or you do not belong.

If we are unconsciously creating a inner culture around their fear of being rejected by their own family then how can we be setting them up to know they are loved unconditionally. The actions are what will ingrain feelings within.  So is sending them off to their rooms proving to them in action that no matter what, how they respond to a situation or say a bad word that they have unconditional love, support and belong?

Probably by this point you may be thinking – ‘well, if they don’t realise how wrong their behaviour was they will eventually do that same behaviour ten fold and go to jail.’ Or they may have zero respect for you as a parent because they don’t fear any consequences. Here is my perspective on that.

Everyday they are learning that their actions have consequences. Some of those may go into the good column others on the unpleasant side, but either way they are learning every single day. Most people, and this includes children, are acting out because they are not receiving some time that they desire. Most of the time they act out in a way that is perceived as wrong and this gives them some negative attention, but it’s actual attention. Think of anyone in your life that has been able to love you through the good times and the bad times and through both all that was there was unconditional love and support. Is that the type of person you would want to disrespect or one you want to continue to nourish? But I believe we really need to get down to what is actually occurring for the child to begin with. Are we giving them the opportunity to express how they view the world? Can they tell us things that perhaps might trigger a negative response within us, but we are still able to hear them with love and support.

Acting out is usually linked to something else. Something that is hiding underneath and needs the love, support and a safety-haven for all expression. So, if we remove rejection and have unconditional love and support, do you feel you child would be more or less likely to communicate the hard things later on in life?


The way things are just don’t work

The world of corporal punishment, isolation and rejection without communication is not working. Our world needs unconditional love and to create that perspective it needs to start with the most important relationship a child will ever have and that’s with their parents. We need to stop fearing that we may mess them up and just start to love them especially in those times when they seem the least “deserve” it. I know we mean well and as parents are often left feeling like “am I even doing this right” and of course we all just want our child to be accepted by society. But I have come to question what am I possibly stripping from them. Or whether I am enhancing fear to achieve this ‘acceptable’ behaviour.


Some ideas to do instead of sending them away.

Hold the child, sit with the child, hug the child, get into communication about what may be going on, and what triggered them to react that way. Depending on the age of child some of these suggestions will not work because their brain is not developed in the way to be able to process the consequences of their action. But only way no matter the age is to be able to be with the child during their rough outburst. Maybe they will allow you to hold them, maybe you need to do some deep breathing exercises with them to help them calm down, or maybe you sit next to them during their outburst. Being able to be with them even in their anger or frustration will set the example that no matter what you will be there.


One last thing…

I know one last complaint that may be coming to your brain. But if they are freaking out, yelling etc and I sit and be with this behaviour isn’t that teaching them it’s ok to act like that. That they will get loving attention so won’t they keep doing it? I will leave you with this. If they have loving attention and support will they still need to?