Maybe the "time-out" isn't the more humane form of punishment. Child psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, doesn't think so. I am finishing his book for my parenting book club and this part struck me:
"The main problem with time-outs is that they enforce isolation on children who are probably already feeling isolated and disconnected."
Cohen says that when children misbehave they are trying to tell you something. I'm tired. I'm bored. I'm lonely. I'm jealous. He thinks that a better way to deal with this is to try to speak their language and address the problem, not send them away. He says that when we send them away, they feel even more tired, bored, lonely, jealous, and so the problem is not being addressed or solved.
I've been one of those parents who thought that the "time-out" was a compassionate alternative to spanking. But now I'm beginning to reconsider.
When Miles acts out, if I stop to really analyze the situation I can figure out what is upsetting him. Most of the time it is about a disconnection, as Cohen asserts. If I can reconnect with him in some way, I can usually dissipate the situation and explain to him how he can better handle his frustration without hitting, whining, or tantruming.
This doesn't mean you have to be ready to address your child's needs at any given moment. It just means that you have to be willing to listen. If you can't address the situation right then and there, you can try to ask them to wait until you can. At least they know you have their attention.
Miles entered the "terrible twos" last week and while it really isn't so terrible, we are in a stage where we have to learn to discipline him effectively. So if he is feeling jealous of his baby sister and chucks a toy at the wall, sending him away will only make him feel MORE jealous, not less. He won't think, "Wow, I really should learn to control my rage and refrain from throwing objects at finished surfaces. This is a good lesson in causality." No! Of course not! He will think, "I wanted her attention and I tried to tell her that and now I have even less of my mommy than I had before I started. This sucks!"
Cohen's alternative to the time-out is to use a family meeting on the couch. When there is a disconnection, they all meet on the couch and take responsibility for what has gone wrong. Sometimes they don't even speak but often it is a time to cool off and address the issue. The point is to connect and address rather than reinforce and banish. I'm going to try to implement some of this. What do you think?