Tired of Time Out? Try These Alternatives From Early Childhood Educators
For many parents “time out” is the go-to behavior management technique when children act up. Time outs are meant to give children time to calm down, but many of us are using the timeout as a punishment – and many experts are now saying that punishments don’t work with young children. If you’re using time out to help your child calm down by taking him out of a situation, empathizing, and teaching him cool-down techniques, time outs can be very effective.
But if you’re like most parents, you’re using time outs when you’re at your wits end – and you’re using threats, yelling, and maybe even physically removing your child to the timeout location. If you find that you’re using timeouts as punishments and that they aren’t working anymore, you might want to try something new from some early childhood classrooms across the country.
【Try guidance rather than punishment, like a promising program in Connecticut】
CT has partnered with a program called Early Childhood Consultation Partnership that puts consultants in pre-K and daycare classrooms to support teachers with managing tough behaviors. The program is centered on teaching children what TO do, rather than what NOT to do.
For example, when a teacher sees a young boy about to use a stick to hit another child, she quickly jumps in to take the stick and helps him turn it into a game – holding the stick so that other children can jump over it. Crisis avoided, no discipline necessary, and the boy has learned a more appropriate game.
Classrooms involved in the program also have a “Cozy Corner” where students can choose to go when they feel sad, overwhelmed or just need a break. And finally, students are taught techniques like the “turtle technique” to calm down if something upsetting happens – they can “go into their shell”, take deep breaths and think calm thoughts. Studies show that children who have participated in the program have significantly lower ratings of hyperactivity, restlessness, and problem behaviors.
【Try meditation and mindfulness】
The Robert W Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore is trying a radical approach –meditation instead of detention and timeouts. The school has created a “Mindful Meditation Room” in place of a detention room. When students act up, they can sit in the room and use techniques like breathing or meditation to help them calm down. They’re also encouraged to talk through happened. The school has seen zero suspensions in the past year since starting the program. You might be thinking can my preschooler really meditate? Yes! A study showed that 4 and 5 year olds who were taught a “mindfulness” curriculum by trained instructors were more likely to share with other children and also scored higher on end-of-year assessments.
【The overall lesson? Teach your child techniques to calm down, and keep your own cool 】
What both of these examples have in common is that they build children’s skills in handling their big feelings before the big feelings happen. Try teaching your child techniques when they are already feeling calm – and continue to praise good behaviors that you see. And most importantly, try to keep yourself calm. One of the benefits of time out is actually that it gives YOU time away. If you need a moment to yourself – take it. Stepping away for a moment might help you get back the calm you need to handle any situation.