Picture this: you’re in a rush to get to work, hustling around the house to get both yourself and your kids ready. Then, your toddler or pre-schooler chooses this precise moment to have an uncontrollable meltdown, which only triggers even more anxiety and vexation. Instead of lashing out, you choose the next-best option – a timeout in the car. But is depriving your child of emotional support when they’re feeling distressed actually the most appropriate choice?
The short answer to the above question is no. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Bobbi Wegner, conventional timeouts such as banishing your child to their room or sending them to a “thinking corner” without helping them reflect on their behaviour can actually increase emotional distress without improving their mood or behaviour. Instead, you should opt for mindfulness by adopting a modern take on the timeout method by creating a comfortable and safe space for your child to reset and reflect.
How exactly can you create this “safe space”? For starters, you could pick out low-energy activities that your child typically enjoys engaging in, such as drawing, listening to soothing music, or reading an appropriate storybook. This will help distract your child from the unpleasant breakdown and allow them to cool off. The truth is that most children do possess the emotional apparatus to calm themselves down; they just need the time and space to realise that.
However, some children may take longer than others to mellow out, which means that you’ll need to find a different method to placate them. The ultimate goal is to teach them how to self-regulate by recognising changes in their emotions and practising breathing techniques to settle down, so just remember to remain open to tweaking the methods you utilise to achieve this end goal.
In fact, modelling good self-regulation by explicitly expressing your feelings and emotions to your child shows them that feeling upset is not something to be scared of. After all, no one is perfect, and everyone is bound to experience unpleasant emotions at one point or another. This helps create an open environment for everyone, where emotions are shared comfortably rather than being bottled up inside.
Lastly, you can define a safe space simply by displaying empathy and validating your child’s feelings. For instance, saying something as simple as, “I understand that you are angry, and it’s okay because it will pass” can build trust and understanding. Letting your child know that you are there for them by offering a hug or asking whether they want to be left alone will also help alleviate the situation.
By taking a different approach to the traditional “timeout” method, you can improve your child’s overall wellbeing and even resolve conflicts more quickly in the future. Establishing a common understanding about the process of resolution between you and your child is a huge step towards practising mindfulness and openness to a greater extent, which will definitely yield positive outcomes for you and your family.