Stop putting your kids in time out
Seriously, bedrooms should not be used for punishment.
“You cannot teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better.” — Pam Leo
One of the many truisms about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get. I wish I could say the same about parenting. While blogging every single day has done wonders for my ego, I often go to sleep wondering if something I did or said to my eldest daughter, Nadia, has irreparably scarred her.
Fortunately, the “Parenting” topic on Quora always gives me a much-needed boost. It’s not that the parents who post questions there are “bad.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite—if you have enough humility to ask for help from other parents, clearly you care.
But this question really got me thinking a) because I’ve never had this issue and b) the solution has an Occam’s Razor-level of simplicity: if you want a break from your three-year-old, tell them to buzz off to their room for a couple of hours. If the child refuses to comply, there are deeper issues—not with your kid, mind you, but with your parenting.
Haters gonna hate (naps).
Before Nadia turned three we managed to get her into a public Montessori school. But there was a problem: this was a half-day program, so the children weren’t allowed to take naps. In fact, one of the requirements for admittance was that Nadia needed to be weaned off afternoon napping entirely.
Which was fine. From the minute she turned two, Nadia seemed preternaturally adverse to naps. You could say she hated them. Faced with the loss of those two hours to relax and watch something other than cartoons, my wife and I worried. What to do?
Enter quiet time.
This is exactly what it sounds like. You ask the child to go to their room and play independently, leaving you free to watch Netflix, read a book or do whatever.
But what if they won’t go?
Here’s the rub: if your child doesn’t enjoy being alone in their bedroom, you need to consider why. Maybe there’s nothing to do in there. Or, perhaps, you send them to their room as a form of punishment. And, thus, being alone in the bedroom makes your kid feel shitty.
Here’s why you should never, ever use the words “go to your room” as a form of punishment:
Decades of research in attachment demonstrate that particularly in times of distress, we need to be near and be soothed by the people who care for us.
But when you put your kid in “time out,” you’re essentially insisting that “they have to suffer alone.” And that sucks for them.
The bedroom is their refuge—and yours.
It also sucks for you. My heart goes out to that poor mom who went to Quora for real advice and instead got countless variations of this solution: make your kid someone else’s problem. She doesn’t need to throw money at the problem. She needs to give her kid a place to play that’s safe and fun.
Yeah, if you want a night on the town, you’re going to need a sitter. But if you just want some peace and quiet in the afternoon, that shouldn’t require forking out cold hard cash. You also don’t have to be the bad guy. Kids should love playing in their bedrooms. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve playing with, and breaking, action figures.
I mean, there was a lot of Nintendo, too, but I also played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys.