“Time-Out” for Parents

Parents, do you get tired? Do you get frustrated? Your answer is probably yes, and with good reason; the hectic pace of parental life in the 21st century can be exhausting. The complexity of children’s academic, emotional, and developmental needs can be overwhelming; you may confront a number of professional, family, and personal responsibilities in addition to those you manage as a parent. Whatever challenges you face, stress can get in the way of being the kind of parent you want to be.

Your emotional state can impact those around you. All of us have had the experience of losing our temper due to frustration or upset, only to receive negative feedback, generating even more frustration. When we manage our stress effectively, we are more likely to act coherently. The parental time out can help us manage our stress. It can give us an opportunity to collect our thoughts, cool down, and be more effective parents.
The following can help in administering a parental time-out:

1. Recognize that you are angry. The first step is to know that you are getting heated and to acknowledge that you are getting angry. Pay attention to your body, as it is a good indicator of when you are beginning to get angry. You may feel your heart rate increase, or you may feel your body start to tense.

2. Verbalize that you need a time out. It is a good idea to tell your child that you need some space to cool down before discussing the issue. By verbalizing what you need in order to behave without anger, you are setting a good example of how your children can deal with their own anger.

In stating your need for a time out, use “I statements” instead of “you statements”. Examples of such statements include, “I am starting to feel angry. I need to take a time out to cool down before I am able to continue this conversation” or “I am beginning to feel angry. I need some time to cool down, so I am going to go give myself some space for about 10 minutes. When I come back, we can continue this discussion.” Remind the child that you are not giving yourself a punishment, but rather time to regroup. In verbalizing your needs in this way you are also demonstrating to your child how to manage anger effectively.

3. Leave the situation. After you have announced that you are taking a time-out, go to another room in order to give yourself some space.

4. Calm yourself. While in your time-out, do something that helps to calm you down. Use the time-out to reduce the feelings of anger. You might mentally calm yourself with deep breathing, meditation, positive statements, calming music, a shower, stretching, listening to calming music, etc.

5. Return to the situation. When you feel more relaxed and calm, return to the situation. In this state, you are better able to put the stress and frustration aside to make effective parenting decisions.

Taking a time-out is an effective anger management technique. Following these steps will allow you to act with coherence. You will be better able to react to your child in the way that you intend, without letting frustration or anger disguise the message you are sending to your child. Your child’s response to you will be more positive, and the negative cycle of interaction between you and your child will cease.

Putting these steps into practice will relieve your stress, model appropriate behavior, and will facilitate coherent decision-making when dealing with frustrating parenting situations.


-posted by Kirsten Jimerson

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