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Secret #15: Using Time Outs
An excerpt from "25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers," by Mark Brandenburg.

There seems to be a pretty strong consensus out there that kids are more difficult to discipline, and have less respect for authority today than in years past.

There is help for fathers who want to be more effective in raising kids that are respectful, responsible, and cooperative. They're called time outs!

Effective use of time outs lets kids know that the parent is in charge. This works a whole lot better than having the kids in charge.

Kids will resist us and will sometimes lose control of themselves emotionally. That's just what kids do. Don't take it personally, dad. Kids need to push up against limits now and again to see where they are and to feel secure.

Let's consider the purpose of time outs. The main purpose of time outs is not to punish your kids. The main purpose of time outs is to allow your kids to feel their emotions, and then to release them. This is a skill that is vital to the emotional health of kids, but many parents misunderstand it.

When fathers support their children's feelings, they will become more confident and secure. When their feelings are not supported, they are more likely to be volatile and out of control. This lack of support can take the form of leaving when your kids are behaving "badly" or of demanding that they "get over it" when they show strong emotions.

Either approach will cause your children to have less emotional control in the long run.

The best way for kids to develop better emotional control is to have the space provided to experience negative emotions, and then to release them. This means that your child is allowed to fully experience sadness and to feel it until he or she is ready to feel better. (If your child is feeling this sadness in the middle of a church sermon, feel free to remove them).

This natural process of feeling and releasing emotions is quite different from experiencing emotions for a short time and then "stuffing" them when your father (parent) tells you to "settle down" or "get over it." These actions done by fathers can do quite a bit of harm.

Not only does this fuel resentment by kids of their fathers, it serves to decrease the emotional awareness of these kids when they become adults by disconnecting them from their feelings.

Here are some points about time outs that you may find helpful:

-Use time outs as a last resort. There are a lot of creative ways to nip problems early, if you can come up with them.

-Never negotiate time outs; actions always speak louder than words.

-Don't tell your child to think about what they did wrong; your kids will just learn to feel guilty. Trust instead that if you ask for specific behaviors and cooperation, they will learn naturally what is right or wrong.

-Realize that some kids may need a number of time outs every day and that some will need only a few each month. There is nothing "wrong" with the child who needs more; they just need a bit more help controlling themselves. If you "label" them as "a problem," you're likely to end up with a "problem" child.

-Don't expect your child to sit still and be quiet during his/her time out. They will naturally resist that. Time outs work because they give the child the opportunity to resist more. Don't tell them to stop being upset. Know that they will learn from the ability to experience their emotions.

-Don't use a time out as a threat -- the time out then becomes a punishment and will be less effective in the long run.

-Negotiate with your child where the time out will be done-they will be much more likely to comply when they have helped decide on the time out spot.

It is often the case that fathers want to have kids who are "good" and who "behave" well. They mistakenly try to control their kids and their emotions by making them feel that having negative emotions is "wrong."

The irony is that, by attempting to control their emotions, they often don't allow their kids to "practice" the skills of experiencing and releasing their negative emotions, causing these kids to ultimately have much less control. This can make for very frustrated, disappointed dads and for kids who have to live with the consequences of that disappointment.

The effective use of time outs can be an incredibly useful tool for dads in helping their kids to be cooperative, and to exercise emotional control. The punishment methods of the past don't serve kids well today; they just help to create kids who are angry and resentful.

The truth is that most fathers don't want obedient children that are scared of them. Most fathers would rather have children who have their own thoughts and feelings about things that they can freely express.

Time outs can be a tool to help create kids who have these kinds of skills, and these skills will serve them their entire life.

About the author: Author Mark Brandenburg, MA, CPCC, is a certified personal and business coach, husband, and the father of two children. He is a coach to men who want to have more effective, loving relationships with their family. He conducts classes for fathers as well as providing individual coaching. Mark has a Masters degree in counseling psychology and is a former world-ranked tennis professional. For a twenty-minute complimentary session, e-mail him at mark@markbrandenburg.com.

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