My Family’s Take on Time Out

By Linda Knittel

Seven-year-old temper tantrums can be fierce. Young children’s emotions can go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. But even when my son’s stress or upset escalates to the point where he is kicking and screaming, I don’t put him in a time-out—at least not in the traditional sense where he is banished to his bedroom. I have found isolating him in these moments is the worst thing I can do—he needs to feel connection. So, together he and I have found another way for both of us to take it down a notch in moments of chaos.

In the small nook between the head of his bunk beds and the wall we have created a calming corner where he can go to re-center himself and cool down. It is not a punishment spot, but rather a soothing area of his own making. In it he placed a bean bag chair and a few stuffed animals, along with a lavender essential oil spray, and a dry-erase board where he can write down his feelings in words or pictures.

After creating the spot, we agreed on a few terms. First, when he goes in there, I will stay in the room just a few feet away so he doesn’t feel “lonely.” Second, that he can come out on his own time, when he feels calm and ready to have a constructive conversation.

I will admit the first few times we used it I had to urge him to head there, and there was a bit of resistance; but then he remembered the drawing board and spray, and he was game. Over time he started going there on his own, and usually doesn’t even need me to be in the room with him anymore.

Sitting in the corner absolutely helps him calm down much more quickly. The lavender spray encourages him to breathe deeply, and the drawing helps him regain focus. I benefit too. Lying on the floor of his room—or on my own bed if he doesn’t need my company—allows me to gather my thoughts, take a few deep breaths, and re-engage with him with a fresh commitment to patience and calm parenting.

If you have a young child or grandchild, give it a try!

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