Many parents and teachers say ludicrous things such as "Go to your room (or to the corner) and think about what you did." I'm amazed that many adults don't know the answer when I ask, "Do you know why that is a ludicrous statement?"
They come up with all kinds of responses such as, "The child might be too angry to think about it." "He might fall asleep." "She might not understand what she did wrong." All of these statements are true, but what is ludicrous is the assumption that we can control what a child thinks.
A look of awareness appears on their faces when I ask, "Do you really think you can control what a child thinks?
I go on to ask, "What do you think the child is really thinking about?" The answers range from, "She is probably thinking about how angry at me she is," to "She is thinking about how to avoid getting caught next time" to
"She may be thinking about how to get even with me" to, worst of all, "She may be thinking she is a bad person." None of these thoughts help a child do better in the future.
Most adults do not realize that children are constantly making decisions about themselves, about their world, and based on those decisions, about what to do to survive or to thrive. This is a great example of examining the situation and putting your techniques of how to parent to work.
Negative time out is based on the silly thought that in order to get children to do better, first we have to make them feel worse.
Positive time out is based on the understanding that children "do" better when they "feel" better. Check out these premises for yourself. Do you do better when you feel worse, or when you feel better?
It is fun to ask, "How would you respond if you spouse said to you, 'Go to your room and think about what you just did!'"? Most people laugh and say something such as, "I don't think so." Why do we think negative time out would be effective for children when it wouldn't be effective for us?
Negative time out is certainly not effective if it perpetuates a child's discouraging beliefs about herself and her environment. Nor is it effective if those beliefs increase her need for revenge or rebellion in whatever form it takes.
The Effectiveness of Positive Time Out
On the other hand, positive time out can help children learn many important life skills, such as the importance of taking time to calm down until they can think more clearly and act more thoughtfully.
When human beings are upset, they function from their reptilian brain (the brain stem) where the only options are fight or flight. I joke with people by saying, "When children push your buttons, you react from your reptilian brain, and reptiles eat their young."
Adults are often functioning from their reptilian brain when they send children to time out, and resentment will put children in their reptilian brain. Again the vicious cycle of fight or flight.
Positive time out allows children (and adults) space to calm down until they are again functioning from their rational brain (the cortex)--so they can problem-solve and learn. Positive time out encourages children to form positive beliefs about themselves, their world, and their behavior.
In this state of mind, they can learn from their mistakes and/or problem solve on how to make amends for any hurt or damage their behavior might have caused.
Be Aware of What "Really" Works
When a method has really worked with children, they feel empowered and motivated to improve from an inner desire and locus of control (as opposed to control from others), and they develop skills that will help them solve problems and improve behavior.
Adults can empower children in these ways when they understand a few basic principles of human behavior: Know that you can help your child see light and that your techniques of how to parent will influence your children directly.Get practical ways to parent.