One mom’s video goes viral as she explains how she replaced time-out with a Calming Corner using Generation Mindful’s Time-In-ToolKit.
— . (@itsazul_) July 2, 2020
In the viral video, mom Maartemami explains why she did away with time-outs for her 5-year-old son. "There are such big emotions that lead up to time-outs, and it didn’t feel effective to me to leave my son to sit alone with these big, scary emotions."
She explains how she created a calming space for her son to take breaks and learn how to manage his emotions in a healthy way using Generation Mindful’s Time-In ToolKit. “This gives him a super comfy, safe space as an outlet to reflect, center his mind, process his thoughts and regulate his emotions,” she explained. "The calming space allows him to do this because he can meditate, do breathing exercises, or just sit and relax and calm himself via the tools that appeal to his five senses."
TikTok commenters applauded the mom for her approach. "The next generations are gonna be so evolved, this is amazing!” wrote one user. "I wanna do this when/if I have kids."
“I’ve never understood why we punish kids for … having emotions,” shared another.
What Are Time-Outs?
In the 1950s and ‘60s, psychological research in the United States was dominated by behaviorists and psychoanalysts who noticed that animal behavior consisted of the removal of love in order to modify behavior. This forced isolation, or removal of nurturing connection, was then taught to parents in order to reform the behavior of their child as an alternative to violent techniques such as spanking, and the “time-out” was born.
Fast forward half a century and both experts and parents agree that this method is outdated and ineffective. Suzanne Tucker, Founder of Generation Mindful, shares, “Time-outs send the message that when you do bad, you are bad. And because you are bad, you are shameful and undeserving of love and attention. More than two decades of brain science shows us that this isn’t how children learn - in fact, the removal of love leads to a child who feels unsafe and insecure, and this actually deters the child's ability to learn.”
This old philosophy is being replaced by a new framework; namely, children are inherently good, and when mistakes happen (because it will), we can see these moments as teaching moments, holding misbehavior an unmet need. Suzanne explains, “When we understand that all behavior is communication, we can look for and address the unmet needs children have, responding to challenging moments in productive ways instead of reacting to it."
What Experts Say About Time-Outs
Although the point of a time-out is to encourage a child to reflect on misbehavior, pediatrician Nadia Sabri points out in a WashingtonPost article, "Kids don’t have the advanced cognitive skills to think abstractly. Emotional modulation and regulation occur with the development of the prefrontal cortex.” Because the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t develop until the mid to late twenties, we must adjust our expectations as parents. If we cannot expect a newborn to tie their shoes, we cannot expect a toddler to have the skills to self-regulate their emotions. These abilities must be taught through co-regulation, which is the basis of attachment and the foundation of the ToolKIt.
When a child goes into a time-out, they are more likely to think about their anger or resentment for being in isolation than they are to engage in self-reflection. Bernard Golden Ph.D. and author of Healthy Anger: How to Help Children and Teens Manage Their Anger says, “Time-outs might allow for the development of repetitive self-talk that often reflects anger or resentment rather than genuine self-reflection leading to more constructive behaviors.”
Maartemami's son's calming space is what Generation Mindful calls a Calming Corner. This is a space that is created for a family or a classroom by children and adults, together. Suzanne shares that the tools are both proactive and responsive and she encourages parents to introduce the space during calm (non-tantrum) moments through daily playful rituals as guided in the ToolKit's mini-manual. This process ensures that children visit the space when they are feeling regulated and safe and that they will return to use the space when they are not.
Unlike a time-out, children are not forced to isolate during a time-in, rather, they are invited to co-regulate with an adult's support using all their senses. During a time-in, both the adult and the child practice putting words to how they are feeling, using the calming strategies as guided by the Time-In ToolKIt to practice social skills like empathy and making amends. When children use their Calming Corner, they are effectively rewiring the pathways in their brain, reinforcing social and emotional skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
A more compassionate and just world begins with the giving of love to children, not the removal of it. One home. One family. One child at a time. This is what it will take to create an emotionally healthy world.
With time-ins replacing time-outs, children and adults alike are learning how to make connection a habit, even in the face of big emotions.