This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Too Much Time Out?

One of the parenting books that I recently read is Graceful Parenting: Simple Advice for Raising a Gentle and Loving Child by Eve Dreyfus. The book is a short, gift-style book that you might give on Mother's or Father's Day since it is filled with fun artwork and has sparse, poetic-like text. Each time you turn the page there is a new piece of advice from "Yelling Doesn't Work" to "Give Your Child As Many Choices in Life As Possible."

I skimmed through the book quickly and wondered what audience this book is aimed at since it included things like "Don't Hit" and "No Guns." It makes me sad to think that obviously these "rules" must be broken enough that they must be spelled out to parents.

The one suggestion that stood out to me as advice I hadn't heard before was "Try to Avoid Time-Outs." This statement made me do a double take since every non-hitting child behaviorist heralds time-outs as the consequence du jour. Just watch an episode of Supernanny and you'll be convinced that correct implementation of time-outs is a key factor in bringing order to the chaos of your home. Dreyfus's expanded explanation goes as follows:

If a child misbehaves, always try to reason with him or her in order to avoid a time-out. The use of time-outs is frequently misunderstood by children, who can feel very hurt when given a time-out or can turn the punishment into further opportunity to misbehave. Children understand simple explanations of behavior. Simply explaining the wrongdoing to the child is a much more effective and direct way to manage negative behaviors.

I have been thinking about this page for the past day or so and actually wish that I could ask the author to expand on this point with some examples. (I love to see sample situations played out in parenting books!) I can see validity in the argument that time-outs can get overused or inappropriately used when alternative consequences may be more effective. I'm especially sensitive to this fact since I sometimes wonder how effective time-outs are with my own son--he doesn't seem to spend the time in reflection and his signs of remorse are often fabricated with fake sniffling. Yes, fake sniffling since he was about a year and a half!

At the same time, I also feel like a "simple explanation" may sometimes fall upon deaf ears. It seems like a child could easily nod in agreement only to carry on with a sense that no consequence of note has been levied. I suppose it all comes down to looking at each situation within its unique context and using the measure that makes the most sense rather than believing that one solution is the fix-all for every circumstance. Thus, sometimes an explanation may be all that is needed and other times a time-out might be appropriate. I think I will continue to ruminate on this piece of advice a little more...

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