Monday, June 3, 2013

Chocolate and Time-Out

What do chocolate and time-out have in common? Parents, especially moms, like both. But I'm here to say...


Waste. Of. Time.

Toss it. It doesn’t work.

Sorry. I know… most parents use this strategy. Time-Out is a commonly used approach that needs major tweaking.
If you are among the Parental Time-Outers, I’d like you to think about the technique from this perspective. Let’s say you desire to lose weight. (This must be on my  mind with swim suit season upon us. Anyway….) A week later, you make the fatal decision to slide a chair over to the upper cupboard, step up, get on your tippy-toes and reach waaaaaaay back on the shelf to grab that creamy Symphony  milk chocolate bar- which you hid from yourself the week before. (Tell me you do this, too.)

Part way through the sweet delight, you are caught red-handed. You are sternly told, “Go to your room and think about what you did wrong.” Next the amount of incarceration time is declared, “Stay in your room the exact number of minutes as your age!”

What would you be thinking about? Chocolate. The taste. Wanting more. Figuring out how to get another fix without getting caught.
And- the older you are the more time you have to dwell on these thoughts. HMMMM.

While focusing on the deed and the desert, the desire for chocolate would increase, wouldn’t it? Rather than figuring out how to avoid the temptation the NEED for it would be reinforced.

That’s what time out does. 
It reinforces the very behavior the parent wants to extinguish.

So…put time-out in the penalty box and try this instead. A TIME IN. Have your youngster take time to think about how to behave differently the next time. (There is always a next time!)

Kids can do this.

Once the child has figured out how to handle a situation more appropriately  he can return to the family fold with his plan. No sense waiting for a particular time period. Once a solution is arrived at, it’s better to  move on with the day. Have your child tell you his new plan combined with an apology.
Child: “Instead of screaming, I will use a respectful voice when I ask for something. I’m sorry I was disrespectful. Will you forgive me?”
Parent: “Of course, I’ll forgive you. I love you. Good plan. I like the idea of using a respectful voice. And… how great you came up with your idea so quickly.”


The child has done some good problem solving, the idea of the replacement action has been reinforced, restitution  sought, and relational reconciliation has occurred.

Time-In is effective.

As I tell the moms and dads I work with, get your child thinking. Seek to train for the desired behavior and to reinforce the character qualities you hope to grow in your child. 
Which behaviors usually warrant a time-out in your home? Try to tweak the OUT to an IN.
(Now, where is that almond, toffee, and chocolate treat?)

"Taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8

This blog was previously posted as a guest post for Her View From Home May 15, 2013

You can find Lori along with five other family, faith, and education experts at .
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  1. Dear Ms. Wildenberg, I think your concept is interesting but lacks any evidentiary support. There are some statements said that appear inconsistent. A time out, you say, "...reinforces the very behavior the parent wants to extinguish." The analogy used is an adult hiding a piece of chocolate in an effort to lose weight and a child that misbehaves who then is placed on "time out." In effect, both the child and adult seem to be focused on the subject of what deprived them of liberation -- the adult eating the chocolate, the child's misbehavior. I am struggling to find the correlation here. One is a self-imposed prohibition, while the other is a punishment, a consequence of behaving badly. Is it your opinion, then, that a spoiled diet is poor behavior? Or, on a larger, much scarier scale, should wrongdoers who behave badly not be incarcerated (on time out) because it doesn't work? The remedy you offer, which is to "Have your youngster take time to think about how to behave differently next time," it seems to me, can also be accomplished in a time out. In other words, the time out provides a consequence to poor behavior and serves as an opportunity for the child (and adult) to reflect on what brought him/her to the time out. Establishing a plan to reintegrate within the family mores (rehabilitation) is essentially the goal, but it should go without saying that punishment, and the pain that serves with it, should be a reminder to child and adult that there are boundaries to which communities (whether family, city, state, country) must uphold to maintain order and the common good for all. This process of establishing such boundaries begins in the home, and I submit, with a time out to not only act as a deterrent to future behavioral issues, but a chance for a parent to help the child reconcile his/her thoughts on what is and is not acceptable behavior. Respectfully Yours, Jason Lyon, MA, JD

  2. Jason, Thanks so much for your comment. You really took a lot of time and thought regarding this. I appreciate that. I guess my analogy wasn't a perfect one but one I hoped people could relate to and recall. The main idea is "training"- training youngsters to behave in the way we want them to-Training is the best way to get cooperative and more acceptable behavior. Time outs tend to be over used and not very effective (of course there is a place for punishment when parenting our kids but I encourage parents to train first) Here's an illustration I use in my parenting classes and talks (remember these are parents of kids... not inmates :) ) I say, "Close your eyes. Tell me what you see." Then I say,"Don't stand on the slide." EVERY Parent I work with says, "I see someone standing on the slide." So rather than saying DON'T and reinforcing behavior you want to extinguish I recommend saying, "Sit on the slide." Little ones picture the action word (stand or sit) rather than the do or don't. This same idea holds true for time outs (not against them just think they need to be used effectively)Rather than saying, "You are going to your room for a time-out because you stood on the slide. Then think about what you did wrong.."Then the behavior we had hoped to remove has just been reinforced with no good behavior to replace it. Of course raising kids is different from a courtroom. Kids need to learn acceptable behavior to become good little citizens. It's the parents job to train them so they will be. So punishment has a place but I always shoot for training first...because I want the appropriate behavior to be the goal.
    Hope that makes sense. Again thanks for your thoughtful reply. Do you have kids?