Why I don’t like Time Outs

There are so many reason I can’t even begin to tell you, but let me tell you a story:

When I first began working in child care I was in High School.  I knew at 14 years of age that timeouts weren’t appropriate.  Why?  Because of David.

David was a 7 year old boy in the afterschool program where I worked and was that child.  The one who struggled with social skills.  The one who was always begin sent to time out.

One day I walked into work and there was David, sitting on the wall.  I had to pass him as I went in to sign in.  I said hello and asked him why he was on time out.  He told me that he had hit another child because they were playing handball and the other kids said he was out but he wasn’t and so he hit them. (yes, in that long unending sentence he told me, I’ll never forget it).

I went in to sign in and, in the process, stopped by a couple of the teachers and asked how long David was on time out (because when I had asked he didn’t know).  No one knew how long David was on time out; no one seemed to remember putting David on time out.

I went over to David and asked him, “Who put you on time out, David?”

”No one, I put myself on time out.”

I don’t know why he didn’t mention this earlier, but it made me immediately realize that time outs are not the answer.

All this time, the only thing David learned was, “you hit, you sit.”

No one ever stopped to teach him a different way.  No one ever stopped to say, “David, I know you’re upset that they say you are out, but let’s figure out what you can do. You can ask for a do over.  You can get in line and try again.  There are many ways to deal with this.”

David was willing to do his time sitting on the wall, mostly because he didn’t know any other way to handle his emotions.

Sure, there are times when children (and adults) need to take a break to refocus and calm their bodies down.  This is just a break.  The opportunity to teach a different way doesn’t go away.  There still needs to be follow up and follow through.

Children need to be supported in their social situations and some need more help than others.  Time outs don’t teach them a different way.

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