Disciplining children is a topic I hear about on a regular basis and one of the great parenting debates that’s been around for generations. As an elementary school teacher and first-time parent to my 8-month-old daughter, I’ve generally kept my thoughts about discipline to myself. My husband and I work as a team to decide what’s appropriate for our daughter; however, as a teacher, it’s up to me to provide information to promote positive behaviors in the classroom. Unfortunately it sometimes it feels as though I am criticizing the parenting skills of others, though it’s not intentional. But when a child’s behavior affects the classroom, I have to be honest and guide a parent to make changes that result in a better classroom experience for all of us.
I don’t necessarily feel one parenting style is better than another. I actually find the often time discipline strategies need to be tailored to a child’s specific needs. It doesn’t matter how strongly I might feel about discipline, if a child is struggling to demonstrate appropriate behavior, I’m willing to toss out my theories and work to find a solution. That can include time-outs with a purpose when used appropriately. The key word here is “appropriately.” As new research is revealed almost daily and with the convenience of social media and technology, it seems like new information on how parents should be parenting is becoming viral. We are learning as parents what to do and what not to do, often with conflicting ideas. This mixed research and vast array of opinions from both professionals and parents can leave anyone feeling as though they are inadequate at this job we call “parenting.” However, when it really comes down to it, you are the parent and only you know what is best for your child. This includes how you feel about the use of time-outs in your home.
Granted, at 8 months old, my daughter is too young to understand time out. Developmentally, I don’t feel she is ready to understand the meaning of being left to think about her behavior and how to make improvements in the future. In the article “Time-out vs. Alternative Discipline?” written by Jennifer O’Neill in Yahoo! Parenting, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-author of the new “No-Drama Discipline,” defines how time-outs can be used correctly. “Brief, infrequent, previously explained breaks from an interaction used as part of a thought-out parenting strategy that is followed by positive feedback and connection with a parent.” Choosing to implement time-outs in your home will probably depend on what you consider to be a “time-out.” I believe that a time-out should be just that, a time away from an unwanted behavior that allows a child to cool down in order to think appropriately about an action that might be more desirable.
Now I’m sure many of you are laughing as you read this, thinking I have no experience with these situations as a new mom. However this is how my husband and I plan to use time outs in our home, but we’re willing to make adjustments along the way. I will also say I feel the effectiveness of these timeouts is dependent on how disciplined and patient my husband and I are and that’s where the “part of a thought-out parenting strategy” comes into play. Being consistent and having tangible consequences that have been created prior to the event, and then acted upon and followed through with, is what’s important.
It reminds me of when we went to puppy school to train our youngest dog. The trainer spent the majority of the time teaching the humans how to get the dog to respond and respect us, not focusing on changing the dog’s behavior. If we, as the trainers of our children, do not take the time, discipline, and patience to practice with them on a regular basis, the child will not be as successful at demonstrating desired behaviors.
In the article, O’Neill also shares advice from experts regarding the effectiveness of time-outs based on research aimed at determining how useful this form of discipline can be when used correctly. As my daughter quickly begins to enter the world of toddlerhood, I believe having good intentions to teach appropriate behavior will require immense patience on our part we understand a child’s ability to reason and understand consequences all comes with time. As long as my husband and I work together as a team during this new stage of parenting, and we stick with what we believe in guiding our child, I feel the use of time-outs will be an effective tool to teach skills in cooling down, reflection, and learning how to talk about a target behavior for our child to reach in trying situations.
What are your parenting challenges?