I’ll admit that 90% of my parenting philosophy comes from Supernanny, because watching a reality TV show is easier than reading a book or taking a class, and you get to look at cute kids acting like animals, which is always fun. What I love about the show is that Jo Frost, the Supernanny, only has about 3 techniques, which work 100% of the time and turn even the nastiest little monsters into complete angels with only four commercial breaks in between.
Sign me up!
I’ve since learned that everything the Supernanny advocates is a tried-and-true parenting method, like Ferberizing, but she doesn’t use the real terms so it seems like she came up with them herself. Oh, those clever Brits!
One thing Jo does in every single episode is give Time Outs. She puts an adorably British twist on it, sending kids to “the naughty ____” [chair/step/Barcolounger]. But it’s a time out. The kid does a bad thing, you make them sit still for a bit, then you all move on with your lives.
It makes sense. I mean, that’s the world we live in, right? Commit a crime, do the time. Scare them straight. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
That’s what happens to grown-ups, after all. You do a bad thing and we punish you by making you go away for a while. First-degree murder gets you 20 to life. Raiding the cookie jar gets you one minute for every year old you are. Sounds fair to me.
Or so I thought. It turns out there’s a whole anti-Time Out movement that wants me to feel guilty for being so barbaric and heartless.
Well, fine. I’ll do what I do any time someone criticizes my parenting skills. I’ll listen closely to their arguments, ponder them calmly and rationally, then shoot them down one by one.
It’s time to play Ultimate Parenting Smackdown! Hit me with your best shots, anti-Time Out people. I’m ready for you!
ARGUMENT: The child is only acting out because his needs aren’t being met.
Which need are we talking about here? The need to beat the shit out of his sister? (For the record, my kids rarely hit each other, so I must be doing something right.)
Most of the arguments in my house happen when one kid wants the other kid’s toy. I calmly give them a list of options — ask for a turn, find another toy, come up with a way to play together — and once in a while, one of those methods actually works. More often, they just grab the toy and run. That’s when they get a time out.
I think some people confuse needs with wants. Most kids want everything, all the time. Any rational parent is going to push back. What if I got mugged by a junkie? Would you tell me not to call the police? Or would that fail to address the criminal’s need for crack?
You want to talk about needs? Let’s talk about my need for peace and quiet. When my kid’s need to yank the cat keyboard from her brother’s hands infringes on that, then my need trumps hers.
ARGUMENT: You’re treating the symptom, not the underlying cause.
When I have a cold, I take cough medicine. It doesn’t make the cold go away, but it eases my discomfort for a bit, and that’s all I expect it to do.
Putting a kid in a time out may not teach them never to misbehave again, but it keeps them quiet for a few minutes, and sometimes, that’s good enough.
Kids do bad things — always have, always will. It’s natural, it’s healthy. They’re testing their boundaries — and my patience. You have a method that makes a toddler never want to take a toy away from another kid, ever? Great, I’d love to hear it. Until then, I’ll take the 3 minutes of silence as the next best thing.
ARGUMENT: Kids can’t understand consequences until they’re 4 or 5 years old.
Most kids can’t read until they’re 4 or 5 either, so should I not allow my children access to books? Should I not teach them how to spell their name or that “J” says “juh”? Trust me, if I put them in enough time outs, they’ll start to make the correlation way ahead of whenever a psychologist thinks they’re able. And won’t I be proud!
Nobody ever says of a violin prodigy, “Man, their parents must be so cruel, shoving that instrument into their hands at such a young age and forcing them to practice.” You just enjoy the music and the cuteness, right?
Well, I’m creating discipline prodigies, so sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor, world. You’re welcome.
ARGUMENT: Redirecting is a more effective method of curtailing bad behavior.
Some people say that the best way to handle bad behavior is to remove the child from the activity and get them interested in something else. It’s certainly quicker than forcing everyone through the several-minute ordeal (those of you without kids, trust me: every minute feels like an eternity) of a time out.
Really? Ignoring the problem is your solution? Forget “redirecting”. This is avoidance. And since when is that a psychologically healthy way of dealing with a problem?
What’s wrong with telling a kid he did something bad? What message is he going to get if I redirect him instead? “Hey, I saw you hit your sister. Wanna come over here and play with my iPad?”
ARGUMENT: You’re withholding love from your child in order to teach them a lesson.
Damn right I am. They’re screaming their heads off and driving me nuts. What’s the appropriate amount of love to show them at that moment? Once they’ve calmed down and done their time on the chair, I always tell them that I love them and I think they’re good kids, but that [x] behavior was unacceptable.
Don’t worry. My kids get plenty of love from me, and they’re smart enough to realize (or they will be eventually) that it’s love that makes me sentence them to time outs.
I’m not claiming that time outs are perfect or even perfectly effective, but as a parent, I need to do something to keep my kids off the path to hoodlumhood. So until someone comes up with a cure for childhood misbehavior, I’m sticking with them.
I always encourage my kids to share, so don’t think you’re off the hook either. If you liked this post, I hope you’ll use those buttons below to post it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Digg or whatever other service you use. And if you haven’t yet, please show your support for the blog by liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter or subscribing in the little box on the top of the right column of this page. Then, in the future, you can skip these little post-asterisk messages. Okay, time out’s over. You know I love you, right?