Time Outs Are Negative
By Lisa Barker
I have a friend who is doing a great service in this world, one for which I greatly admire her and her husband. They are counselors for troubled youth and they live with a good handful to a dozen boys that are troubled and in need of intervention.
Unfortunately, my friend has just moved to a new group home where the Mommy Cops (in close association with the Parenting Police--you know the ones that stop you in the store and critique your parenting for free?) have invaded this particular group home community. The difference between the two is this: Parenting Police constantly find fault and critique with their crooked finger and pointy black shoes and hats, and Mommy Cops beam in with a sparkly magic wand and cheerfully correct your parenting with behavior modeling--you know you feel like they are parenting you as they do it. Can you just see me rolling my eyes?
So my friend is now plagued by the Mommy Cops. For example, a child that threatens the adult in charge and hotwires a car and takes off should not have his privileges taken away. Missing out on television, dessert and phone calls from friends for two weeks (at least) would be demeaning. No kidding!
And let's not call a time out a time out. What should we call it? A time IN?
Time outs are negative. We talk with the child, explain why what he did is wrong and then it is over. Negative parenting, like suspending privileges, only prolongs the discomfort.
Really? I thought that was what parenting was all about--making our kids suffer as much as possible. But I digress.
Ordinarily, or should I say archaically, parenting was meant to be instructive. Discipline means to teach. My own dog doesn't get treats for doodling on the floor, I don't think a child that breaks a known rule with spelled out consequences should skip those consequences.
But isn't that the world we live in now? Every wrong done is simply an illness now that must be treated. Every mistake has a corresponding positive that must be accentuated. And my kids are smart enough to pick up on the concept.
"Have you finished your homework?"
"I did the best I could."
"Did you complete it?"
"I'm working on it."
"How much is done?"
"Most of it..." (That generally means the name, date, and possibly the first question.)
And that's another thing. You can't get a straight answer from kids these days. My daughter does a sloppy job washing dishes and she will insist that what matters is that she did SOME of them well enough. Yay, for self-esteem in education! Now, we have kids who do half as well just as good. Ahem.
So I stopped at my favorite burger joint to treat the kids the other day. We got cheeseburgers without the patty. I said what's this? The clerk said, but I gave you cheese and veggies....
And they were GOOD veggies, too! What was I complaining about?
I know. I forgot. I was negating his positive work experience by demanding a hamburger patty.
So I thought that instead of submitting a column with 700 words this week, I'd submit one with 350 words...and they were darn good words, I tell you.
But the editor didn't pay me for them. I said, "I ALMOST finished the column." She said she ALMOST renewed my contract.
That means I'm on a time out right now, doesn't it? Surely, I am not fired. That would be too negative and would prolong my discomfort. I'd have to sign up for counseling and then where would I be?
"It all started, Doctor, when I was in this group home and the new mother in charge took away my television and phone privileges and wouldn't let me have dessert for two weeks...."