(or "Yes Virginia, there is an Adlerian time out")
"My 18 month old hits when he is playing with friends during play dates. I’ve told him again and again that it is not nice, and that it hurts, and to use his words. I am thinking I will try using a time out. Do Adlerians even believe in time outs?"
Yes, Virginia there is an Adlerian Time Out
Virginia – you are on the right path. Yes, Adlerians do use "Time Outs" as they are really just a version of a logical consequence IF applied correctly – however I work with a lot of parents and find that they rarely are.
"If you hit – you sit (out)" is a great short and snappy way of remembering and offering this logical consequence that meets the requisite 3 R’s: respectful, related and revealed in advance.
The consequence must be logical to the child: "If you choose to play co-operatively you may stay here with your friends. If you choose to hit, which is unsafe, you must go somewhere else because we need to feel safe when we play together. When you decide to play without hitting we would love to have you back"
In non-punitive Adlerian time outs:
- Of utmost importance: the length of time is decided by the child. Whenever they decide to choose to play without hitting they can come back.
- The emphasis is on participating in the group with safe pro-social behaviours that meet the needs of the situation. It is about safety and other ways to problem solve: not about being "nice" or "not doing what you’re told" which is all about listening to authority figures.
- I recommend not using the phrase "time out" as it is has a negative connotation with children.
- I recommend the child stay close to the fun they want to get back too rather than hiking all the way to their bedroom. You want the children to be motivated to quickly decide to act differently and come back ASAP.
- Do not have a time out chair/area – that introduces a stigma which is punitive, and speaks to having negative expectations for the child’s future behaviour. Very discouraging.
"One minute of time-out for every year" (often recommended by time-out proponents) is NOT a good method. If the child decides they want to come back and there is still time on the clock, they’ll spend the remaining time building resentment and anger, and the child may seek revenge.
TTFT Take time for training
Virginia – you had some great lines. I also use:
- "Our hands are for hugging and holding" (invites the behaviour we want to see)
- "It is not okay to hit people. We need to feel safe when we play." (be clear, not angry)
- "You need to speak up and use your words – not your hands." (help start problem solving through verbalizing)
Once you have said these once – YOU ARE DONE. They are bright, they heard you. After all, how many times did you have to tell them that cookies are kept in the cookie jar on the counter?
Offer Choice: "Can you stay and play safely or do you need to go?"
Follow Through: "I see (because you keep hitting) that you need to go" and guide them to the side of the room or someplace neutral on the sidelines of the action out of the centre of the action.
Action Not Words: Once they’ve been in this time out once, you can just take their hand and guide them to the side. No words needed.
Firm and Friendly: Watch that body language. Stay calm and composed. Your emotions, disapproval, or exasperated looks interfere with the learning.
Remember: When they choose to come back – that is fine.
"Hi – I am glad you’ve chosen to come back. It’s more fun when we play all together."
Tip: Don’t go overboard with this noticing. If you do they may decide that is enough payoff to encourage them to get themselves into time outs just so they can steel the show with a grand re-entrance! And this does happen.
Virginia – I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes.