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What Is "Time Out"?

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Dr. Kenney describes when "time out" is commonly used and shares why parents should consider another method to restore composure.

Dr. Kenney:
Let’s talk for a second about time out. If you are a parent you have an image of what time out is. You probably even have a method for using time out in your own home. Do you think that time out is a successful way to change behavior or is it a method of punishment?

Sometimes I get confused because I remember 20 years ago when I was in the intercity schools in Los Angeles and we were just learning about how to implement time out, mostly in order to calm things down, and then I compared and contrasted to the homes I go into now. Time out used to be this method for calming yourself, taking your moment and finding your peaceful heart and somehow it evolved into this angry method of punishment.

Think of how many times you have said, “Do this or you are going to time out”. Do you think threats are going to improve your relationship? They are not. So I am really suggesting that we get closer to banishing time out than we get to using it more often because I think that time out was effective when it was a calming strategy and it’s become ineffective as it’s become a punishment.

So what do we do instead? Yikes! I think that instead what we do is we celebrate time-in, alright? We focus on the positive in our relationship. We collaborate on what it is we both like to get out of this relationship and then we say,‘when things go well we have time in; let’s actually make a list of all of our time-in activities. We could go to the park. We could go to the beach. We could play soccer. We could hit the tennis ball in our driveway. We could clean strawberries and have strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.

You can have lots of simple, ten-minute tasks on your time-in list that are going to focus on what you get when the relationship is going well instead of the threat of punishment and time out.

About Dr. Lynne Kenney, Psy.D.:
Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a mother of two, a practicing pediatric psychologist in Scottsdale, AZ, and the author of The Family Coach Method (St Lynn’s Press, Sept 2009). She has advanced fellowship training in forensic psychology and developmental pediatric psychology from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harbor-UCLA/UCLA Medical School. Dr. Kenney is currently a featured expert for Momtastic.com and Parentsask.com.

Visit Dr. Lynne Kenney at her Website

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