Written by Mary Barr Rhodes

The “terrible twos” is a time of great learning for both child and parents. Developmentally, the child is exploring and discovering the world around her. And, naturally, she will not always express herself or make decisions correctly. The parents must respond to their toddler with objectivity. Take time to think about “time-out” as a spiritual practice. Typically introduced between the ages of 18 – 24 months, “time-out” can serve as an introduction to “the inner observer.” 

Wrap your head around what “time-out” really is. The child acts out. You react, and a commonly used solution is to put the child in what has popularly become known as “time-out”.  Basically, this means that the child is placed in a spot where she is removed from interaction with others or any activity or other types of entertainment, and is directed to remain there for an allotted time to think about the infraction or discipline issue.  While the purpose is to isolate the child, leaving the child alone in order that she may contemplate an apology or behavioral change, this “time out” is often meted out as punitive. Often the parent, reacting to an infraction, also loses sight of the purpose of the time out. If a parent’s actions are aggressive, the child may perceive this time out as mere punishment, and gives no thought at all to any type of contemplation.  When using “time-out”, consider the following four ideas:

Stay Centered

When your child is throwing a temper tantrum or committed some other act for which you deem a time-out a solution, it is often difficult in the moment to remember that your child thrives on your love. The more animated the parent’s reaction is, the more reactive the child will be. (Parents typically respond in the manner in which they were disciplined in childhood.)  Be the mirror of stability and kindness for your child, and she will respond accordingly. You actually want to teach her not be afraid of making mistakes, as well as how to handle future situations with kindness and compassion for others.

Positive and Constructive

Instead of presenting time-out as punishment, make this quiet time an opportunity for your child to mentally process the situation, physically calm the body, and acknowledge her emotions. Let the child know that you are in that moment with her. The child should learn that her behavior is separate from her “self”, and that her behavior is merely in the moment. Show your love and respect by calmly talking to your child about her behavior. It is critical for her to understand that you love her, but in this moment, you do not love her behavior. Explain calmly that the exhibited behavior is not appropriate. 

The Gift of Stillness

Instead of being angry with the child, see this moment as an opportunity for learning.  Suggest a few questions for the child to contemplate. Time out is not about controlling the child, but offering the child the opportunity to comprehend why their behavior is not appropriate. In this moment of reflection, the child learns that she can actually observe her behavior, and then make the decision to step away from her inappropriate action. By observing her behavior as separate from her being, she learns that she is worthy of love, even though her behavior is inappropriate. A physical hug can serve as a symbol of the end of time-out, and your personal forgiveness for his misconduct. The child needs to understand your love is constant and unconditional, regardless of behavior.

Spiritual Practice

When your child continues the same bad behavior, it can wear on your patience.  The perfect opportunity for you to model your own centeredness has arrived. Stay committed to teaching your child how to center her energy. But, remember, the time-out is for the child, not for you. Do not overuse the discipline of time-out. The child may then feel abandoned and the time out will not carry the same weight. It then becomes just another form of discipline.  Tell your child that good behavior requires practice. Let her know that you also practice good behavior in your daily spiritual discipline. Ultimately, the child can learn to break irresponsible patterns before they become routine behaviors. 

N-1 Games is dedicated to teaching children and parents the skills of character building. It’s never too early to teach the gift of stillness. By establishing time-out as a spiritual practice, the child learns that stillness is a space of love and compassion. Most importantly, be compassionate with yourself. You will be at your best when you give yourself a time-out to cherish the gifts of silence. 



02/28/2014 6:52pm

Conscious parenting how wonderful. Wish I had this kind of advice when I was parenting in the 80's. I will pass this on!

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