By LaToya Dawkins
As cute and lovable as our preschoolers are, their need to explore and discover can sometimes lead them into disobedience and defiance. They say, “yes” and we say, “no.” They do something they are repeatedly told not to do, or they use physical harm to communicate how they are feeling. Whatever the naughty behavior is, sometimes, they end up in “Time Out,” which is a form of punishment. Its purpose is to teach the child that the behavior they are displaying is unacceptable. However, if we as educators, caregivers, or parents are not careful, the misuse of time out can cause significant discipline damage.
When should time out be used? After the child’s negative behavior has been addressed verbally to the child. The poor behavior must be labeled, (i.e. punching, spitting), the child ought to know why the behavior is negative (i.e. someone can be hurt, it is impolite), and the caretaker should notify the child that their conduct is not acceptable. It is a good idea to repeat several times, for each negative behavior, before the child is put in time out. Caretakers must also refrain from threatening time out when the opposing act has only been addressed once. More than likely, the first time that it was addressed, your preschooler may not fully understand the negative connotations of their actions.
Where and how should time out be used? In an applicable environment such as home, school or park. Not during a social event or in an environment where the child cannot be watched. Time out should never be used as a form of isolation wherein the child is out of sight and out of mind. It is a break from the negative behavior and used to emphasize positive behavior. Before the child is removed from time out, it is helpful to readdress the issues and ask them if they are ready to rejoin their group.
As adults, we know some days are better than others. If a child is having a difficult day, it would be best to refrain from using time out as much as possible. Often, if I notice a child has been displaying more negative behavior than the norm, I will ask them if they are feeling okay and I will also encourage them to relax throughout the day by either reading a book or playing an independent game. The child needs to understand that though they have a right to be sad or angry, they do not have the right to hurt themselves or others. Like any form of punishment, time out should not be given in anger but in love. Discipline helps our preschoolers become productive citizens in society.