Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I Don't Do Time Outs

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You are thinking WHAT!!! How can she do that!

And, no we don't spank either.  No sticker or chore charts.  We don't even always demand obedience.

I know what you are thinking now, "Her house must be CRAZY, kids must be out of control".  I will be honest, sometimes it is.  But not for the reason you are thinking.

My girls are adopted from foster care.  They came to live with us at the age of 3 and 4.  And I will be flat out with you, foster/adoption and international adoption is not for the weak.  I have been in the trenches more often than I can count.  My girls are traumatized from their experiences in foster care and before and now I (and my husband) have trauma from attempting to guide them through their experiences.

One major thing I have learned through it all is that parenting can't be about a power struggle.  Too often, I want to be in control, I want to be right, I want to be respected.  (Wow, that was a lot of "I".)  Where does that leave my kids and the relationship I am building with them?


That is what we are on this earth for and I often wonder why that doesn't always pertain to how I relate to my kids?  Why do I let "bad behaviors" and disagreements cloud my love?

Our family is at the far end of the spectrum compared to many families.  Most of our friends experience nothing like the behaviors we see.  But I feel like it has given me a unique perspective in how I would want to parent children even if I did not have kids with trauma.

Did you know that a person's pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls reasoning and logic) doesn't fully develop until they are 25 years old?  This means that the logic that is so clear to you may mean NOTHING to your 7 year old.  Not because they are naughty, but because their brain won't finish developing for 18 more years!

Did you know that when a child is freaking out or having a temper tantrum that the only part of the brain that is working is the amygdala (the most primal, basic part of the brain the controls fight or flight).  So guess what, when my kid is screaming at me.. she doesn't hear a word I am saying and no consequence is going to change her behavior UNTIL I can get her to calm down.

Take time outs for instance. Time outs are about bringing the child back into a calm state.  But here is the problem.  They did not go into a "non" calm state on purpose, their brain did it.. on auto (it is a survival instinct).  And at this point their brain is not communicating.  So, guess what?  I get to help it communicate, by giving a "Time In".  Instead of sending my girls to their room to think about it, or to a designated spot.. I have them come to me or I go with them.  I help them calm down and feel safe again (because the root issue for many kids (even non-trauma kids) is not feeling safe, sounds silly but that is how the brain is wired). Depending on the situation I may not even talk about what ever the "bad" behavior was during the time in.

By doing this I am disciplining (teaching) them to be able to self regulate and as an added bonus I am building relationship.  You know what I have found building a stronger relationship with me does for my girls?  I find it promotes obedience.  Why? Because, in general, most people who love someone want to do what pleases the person they love.  And the stronger the bond, the stronger the love.

All this is not to say that we don't deal with the issues, we do.  If there was disrespect, we talk about what is respectful and apologize to the disrespected person.  It just might be later, when learning can actually take place.

Teaching, not punishment.

One of my main take always from raising my girls is that kids (and adults) have a lot of bad behaviors that are more than they appear on the surface.  I need to keep in mind that my kids are not little adults (remember not until 25) and I need to guide them through their development keeping that in mind.  I am the adult and need to make sure I am not the one acting childish in my parenting.

What are your biggest parenting struggles.  How is parenting different that you thought it would be?

PS.. I fail in doing this type of parenting ALL.THE.TIME.  I am not perfect and I often let my pride get in the way of relationship.  But this is my goal, what a strive for.  Loving more everyday.


  1. Love this! Our family just became a foster family(already having 4 children, 3 who receive therapies. Because we're nuts! lol) and it has made me re-evaluate my parenting strategies. I realized that I'm driving myself crazy with all MY expectations of kids who just aren't old enough to get it. I really needed this today, thanks! :)

  2. I work in education and that is one of my biggest frustrations - a kid has a meltdown and the teacher (or multiple staff members) are sitting there talking talking talking and the kid is not processing anything they're saying and the adults just get madder and madder....they don't give them time to calm down or process.

    1. M- you might want to grab a great book called Help for Billy by Heather Forbes. It is written for parents and teachers and help explain how the brain works for traumatized kids as well as non trauma kids (but they are in the fight or flight part of the brain at the time).

    2. Thanks that should do the trick I will try what you did with your children

  3. Wonderfully said. I agree, in the end, it is really all about the relationship, not the rules.

  4. Thank You so much. I will take this much appreciated data.

  5. As a parent of an 18 year old son trying to deal with the sudden death of his dad, I appreciate your thinking. I batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to clear before I try to have a conversation that I think will have some impact. Good luck with your girls!


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