On Time Out
Parents have asked me if "Time Out" is an appropriate consequence for inappropriate behavior. The simple answer is, "It depends." Tme out or time away can be a good learning experience when it is a logical consequence to inappropriate behavior.
When might time away be a logical consequence? When the child is having trouble interacting with others, especially if he is showing signs of being overwhelmed, time away canbe an appropriate response. A toddler that is tantruming, hitting, biting or grabbing repeatedly is not having a positive or successful experience interacting with others. Time away can give her the opportunity to reset, helps the parent determine if overstimulation is the problem, and sends the message that her behavior is not appropriate.
One imporant step when structuring time away is to empower the child. Traditionally, the parent decides how much time the child sits in "time out." However, if we give the child the opportunity to decide when they are ready to rejoin the group, she is empowered to feel in control of her behavior. It sends the message that we trust her to make a better choice.
As you gently lead or carry the child to another place say, "You may join us when you are ready to use gentle hands." To the tantruming child say, "I see you are so upset. You may wait here until you are ready." Your physical distance from the child depends on the need of your child in the situation. When the child chooses to rejoin the group, you can signal your trust that she will now be successful by reseting your attitude as if nothing has ever happened.
The amazing thing I have observed dozens of times, is that a child that is waiting to join friends on the playground, for example, will sit anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes by choice and almost always rejoins the group successfully. She rejoins with message to herself, "I am ready to be with the group."