Parents are posting their child’s time out videos on the Internet. On Youtube I viewed many children who were all under 24 months of age – still in diapers. Is this where parents are going for child rearing information? Or is this an avenue for parents to display how funny it is to see a young child being disciplined as entertainment? It is virtually impossible for a child this young to cognitively understand what a time-out is, let alone understand why their parents have such high expectations for them when they have such little life experience.

The lack of respect it takes to film a child’s most embarrassing moments as entertainment and the misuse of time-outs that are now serving as punishment rather than guidance, basically makes this type of treatment abuse. No, it is not reportable by standard definitions, but again if you humiliated an adult and video taped your punishing him, it would be considered abusive.

It’s humiliating enough for a child to be disciplined in private, but then to post it on the Internet? What purpose does this serve? Parents are role models for their children.

As Alfie Kohn states in his book, Unconditional Parenting, (2005), many parents are cracking down on their young children just for being kids, which is heartbreaking to watch. Parents who understand children’s developmental limitations tend to respond to their children in a reasonable, calm and patient manner.

The coerciveness and misuse of time-outs on the very young are usually done because parents are lacking knowledge of child development and have unrealistically high expectations. When young children are upset, they unravel and spin out of control. Stress hormones are released and their ability to take control of their emotions is almost impossible. This is when they need their parents most. The misuse of a time-out is not only punishing but alienating, and may spark a physiological out of control response.

If the children on the YouTube videos had parents who were more empathetic to their needs or who were emotion coaches, there would be less stress and emotional breakdown. Parents who empathize with their children would understand that a 15 month-old child can’t simply know the true ramifications of spilling his fruit loops and stepping on them (like the little boy in the YouTube time-out video). He’s just playing and they make a great sound under his feet.

I saw a two-year-old toddler being made to stand in the corner who was repeatedly asked by her mom holding the camera, “Will you be good?” and the toddler would whimper and shake her head “No.” Little did the mother understand that toddlers who are under emotional stress (which time outs clearly cause) have a hard time understanding language or parental requests.

There was a little boy who was clearly under twenty-months old. Just an innocent child sitting in the corner crying as his father videotapes. I could see that this little boy was sitting not because he was learning a lesson on how to be good, but he was basically sitting in fear, following directions because he feared his intimidator, the man with the camera, whom he calls “daddy.”

You may think time-outs work because a toddler stops their poor behavior for the moment, however it doesn’t mean that they understand what a time-out is. Children who get time outs, cease their behavior because they are afraid of their parents love withdrawal and rejection. Parents are using time-outs as punishment, but research shows that negative motivation doesn’t work.

A toddler’s developing brain cannot process and integrate the complex message of a time-out. Although I personally am opposed to using time outs with children, unless it’s implemented in a loving and humane way; i.e., sitting with them to help them calm down, think about what they did, and to come up with a better solution. This is mentally impossible for a child under 2.5 years of age — especially alone. And, how are they supposed to know how to do it unless someone shows them? Toddlers are one-dimensional and depend on their parents to guide them though tough times and learning moments.

Toddlers have limited emotion regulation and need a caring adult to empathize, soothe and guide them. Children who are put into repeated time-outs may develop poor emotion control because they are left alone with no one to guide them during the upheaval. Experts and pioneers in the field of early childhood and emotion regulation have written books to help American parents become more effective and humane when disciplining their children.

Dr. John Gottman’s research shows that creating a stronger bond between parent and child involves empathy. He believes that empathy is the foundation for effective parenting (Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child, 1997). The more empathy a parent has for their young child, the stronger the relationship and thus less acting out.

Connection is the key ingredient in helping guide our malleable children. Punishment disconnects us from our children and impairs the goal of helping them become self-sufficient. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, the Author of, “Kids, Parents and Power Struggles,” believes that when a parent takes time to listen and respond instead of resorting to love withdraw or alienation, the child learns to view that bond as rewarding. Children need role models and their parents to build a healthy relationship. When you take time to connect and help your child choose appropriate actions through guidance, then there is no need for emotionally draining time-outs.

As Dr. Gottman so eloquently puts it, “Good parenting begins in your heart, and then continues on a moment-to-moment basis by engaging your children when feelings run high, when they are sad, angry, or scared. The heart of parenting is being there in a particular way when it really counts.

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