Posts Tagged ‘consequences’

One of the most used tools for punishing a child’s behavior in the last decade has been the “Time Out.”  Companies capitalized on products geared to assist parents with this consequence creating tools that range from Time Out Timers to  Time Out Chairs.  I’m a fan of Time Out myself.  It’s a great way for everyone to regroup, reset and recharge.  But if a child sits in Time Out and stews about the punishment or is uncertain about what they did to land themselves there the Time Out is really ineffective, and more times than not the child will end up right back in the Time Out seat.

This consequence is much more useful if the child has an opportunity to get in touch with what they are feeling and then get to a calmer more centered place.  A child that leaves Time Out calm and balanced is a child that will interact with his surroundings more successfully.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of a Time Out.

1) Choose a time out spot in your home and make it peaceful — Maybe at a window that overlooks the garden or in a space that removed from household noise.  It should also be comfortable enough that the child can relax, for example a chair is preferrable to standing.

2) Play some happy music in Time Out.  Not something that is distracting, but this is a good time to use something like Baby Mozart’s Relax, Daydream and Draw CD.

3) Encourage deep breathing in the Time Out space.  This may mean sitting with your child the first few times and breathing with them so that they understand this is part of the Time Out process.  Deep breathing encourages the physical and emotional levels of the body to relax.  Only once these levels are relaxed can anyone process what’s going on around them.  You are much more likely to get your child to understand their actions once they are calm.

4)  If the child is angry, have them count to ten.  This process helps them refocus their energy and helps to move them out of such a negative space.

5)  Just before they leave their Time Out space ask them to tell you  something they love about themselves.  This reestablishes the idea that consequences do not define them, and they will be in their heart which opens them up to better interactions with everyone.   (Remember ideally it’s 1 minute of Time Out for every year of the child’s age.  A 2-year-old can sit for 2 minutes)

6) My only DON’T suggestion is directly for the parents or caregivers.  Do not end a Time Out asking the child if they know what they did wrong.  This only serves to inject more negative energy into the process at the exact moment that we are asking them to go back to playing or listening to instructions.  We are setting ourselves up for disaster when we do this.  Instead, it is appropriate to tell the child why they are going to Time Out when it is issued, or if the child is older, to ask them why they think they are being sent to Time Out.

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Disciplining our children is a very personal thing.  As Conscious Parents, we have the benefit of being aware of our own triggers, our children’s triggers and looking for tools to help us navigate the waters of discipline effectively.  Let’s face it, we generally discipline our children for engaging in behaviors that either make life unsafe for them or make us feel unsafe.  It’s easy to distinguish those activities that are just out and out unsafe for our kids, sticking things in electrical sockets, running out into the street, riding bikes without helmets and a list a mile long of things children can think to do that we never did.  I never dreamed my son would find the view of the downstairs so inviting peering through the banister railings — until he got his head stuck there.

We also parent our children through our own fears.  I’ve watched parents who are affraid of swimming (or some other activity) over-react to playful and safe water games because of their own fear.  And let’s be honest, we punish our kids for throwing tantrums in the supermarket not because they are unsafe, but because we start to feel judged, overwhelmed and like we “should” be handling things differently.  We’re human, we are all going to do some variation of this. 

When we see our child engaging in a behavior that we know could cause danger (or we suspect will cause pain), we generally react with some fear.  The ironic thing about this is that we cannot experience love and fear at the exact same moment.  So if discipline comes from or in  that moment of fear, the consequences for the behavior may seem extreme or out of context, and then sadly, our child only modifies the behavior based on being afraid, not based on understanding that safety is an issue.  And, we know when we have acted from fear — we generally have huge guilt about the punishment we dolled out.

So, first and foremost, take a deep breath before issuing the consequence.  By all means, if you’re child is running out into the parking lot, scream, grab him around the waist — do whatever you have to to keep him safe, but before yelling, scolding or punishing, take that breath and reconnect with something you love and adore about this child.  Just one thing is all it takes to get you back to your heart.

Consequences must be immediate, firm and adhered to by all adults who are care-taking of the child during the time period of the consequence.  Even if you are on vacation or with family. . . even if it means you as the parent miss out on the fun, any wavering will reinforce the child’s behavior. 

Second, make the consequence fit the action.  Here are a few examples:

1)  Kids want independence…if your little one is insistent on darting out into parking lots or running away from you, then the consequence is that they have to hold your hand for the rest of the trip (or ride in the stroller or cart).  Don’t worry about their screaming, just remind them in a calm voice, “Honey, we have to be safe, you have not been safe today (or the last time we went out) so today you have to ride in the stroller.  Next time well try it your way again and if you wait for mommy and look both ways then you can walk next to me.”  Next time, remind them of the consequence before your trip starts!

2)  Your child rides their bike without their helmet.  A natural consequence is of course falling and getting hurt, but it’s our parenting duty to help prevent this injury.  So if you catch your child being unsafe in this way, the bike gets grounded for a certain amount of time (this is age dependent — a 4 year old will not remember 2 weeks later why the bike is still grounded). 

3)Johnny repeatedly breaks other children’s toys.  The consequence for this could be that Johnny then has to give a similar toy of his own to the other child.  If “Johnny” is older, it’s appropriate that he pay for the damage or  replaces the item, but with smaller children who don’t yet get the concept of money, to replace the item with one of their own is an appropriate consequence.

The goal is to help you keep your calm and teach your child through positive and conscious actions.  Yup, you’re going to get stressed and overwhelmed and maybe even raise your voice.  Just remember that it’s never too late to take that deep breath, reconnect with love and move forward teaching your child how to be a more conscious kid!

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