Friday, January 28, 2011

Why can't I use Time Out any more?

Ms. Dorothy,
I've heard some stuff lately about not using "time out" with kids. I was told that I should use a "thinking chair" or an "observation chair" but not a "time out chair."  Is this just the latest in PC terms, or is there really something different about these? 
- Home Child Care Provider

Generally, when a term becomes taboo in education, it means that the thinking has changed. It isn't just a new term, it is a new approach, and the name change is designed to make you think differently about it.

"Time out" is thought of as a way to punish or reprimand a child for wrong-doing.

"Observation" or "Thinking" or "Cool Down" or "Quiet Space" or "Peace Table" are all ways to shift the thinking from correction to learning.

When you remove a child from the group to observe what others are doing, to think about choices, to cool down, or to find a peaceful or quiet moment to re-group and become ready to return, it shouldn't be about punishment. 

Adding a "time out" consequence to a "quiet think time" when the child is calm, is a great way to satisfy the adult's need to humble and punish a child, but isn't at all about learning. 

Learning happens when the adult takes the time to talk with the child who is ready to calmly rejoin the group.  That conversation should be the point of removing a child.

If the adult is not able to talk calmly about; how the child could have handled the situation differently, and what s/he will do next time, then it is the adult who needs a "time out."

Let's move our thinking from making children comply and conform and defer to the adults, to helping children to understand how their actions and reactions impact others, and how they have the power to make different choices.

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