Don’t Time Out, Take A Break!


My husband and I learned this tool a year ago.  The idea of “Taking a Break”.   Time Out was a tool we used with our kids through toddlerhood.  When they’re behavior warranted, we would put them in the corner for a defined period of time.  (Typically one minute for every year of age).  Once the timer went off, we talked to our child about what they did to warrant Time Out.  The child made apologies, we gave hugs and went along our way. 

However, as our daughter has grown into a young girl we found ourselves struggling through her emotional mood swings.  This child could go from happy to sad to angry with a bat of an eye.  And in a moment where she needed to understand the consequences of her actions, we found ourselves in a battle.  And she was not relenting.

In a moment like that we knew we were not going to get through until she was ready to listen.  And when she sat before us with her folded arms, pursed lips, and furrowed brow … it was obvious that listening was not first on her agenda.

We knew she needed time away from the intensity of the situation, before she could think clearly (or respond appropriately).  Time Out seems like a great option.  However, the ‘Time Out’ approach is parent-driven.  We determined when Time Out begins and when it ends.  We knew our daughter needed time away, but how much time she needed was contingent on her willingness to change her heart.  And ultimately, it’s the heart change that we’re shooting for.  So we opt for a tool called “Take a Break”. 

Take a Break is a similar concept to Time Out.  The child is relegated to their room (or another isolated location that you determine).  They are welcome to stay there as long as they choose.  However, if they desire to rejoin the family then their heart needs to change.  Their attitude needs to look different. 

The times we’ve sent our daughter to “Take a Break” she’s not willingly gone.  However, she understands that she returns when she decides to make some changes.  There’s an element of control and decision-making on her part.  An empowering tool for parents. 

Heart change is something we cannot force on our kids.  But we can certainly require certain attitudes and responses from our kids.  And those that struggle can take time away until they’re ready to comply.  It’s a simple, effective tool. 

As your kids get older, don’t Time Out.  Take a Break instead and see how your child learns to make the right choices on their own.