If youíre anything like me, youíll remember time-outs with a twist of fondness. After all, you likely deserved the punishment for something youíd done. But as you got older, the time outs got less frequent and you (hopefully) learned to behave a bit better. However, the need for a time out hasnít diminished Ė itís just applied in a new way.
The Time Out
A time out is a time of reflection. Itís a time to think about whatís going on, identify what got out of control and to get your emotions back in check. The time out also gives you time to cool down so that you can deal with a situation more effectively. When you were five getting a time-out, you might have taken a cookie without permission and found yourself in the ďthinking chairĒ or the ďnaughty step.Ē There are so many different names for the time out. Even as you got a bit older, you might have been sent to your room without dinner for getting a bit rude at the table, or even grounded for a time thanks to some outlandish behavior. Time-outs are still around for behavior things, but it is another kind of time-out that can be much more valuable.
Taking a Time Out
When you get in trouble and are given a time out, you spend most of your time reflecting on how unfair it is and how the punishment isnít just. But when you give yourself a time out, youíre stopping what often becomes a run-away train before it jumps the tracks. Taking a time out is a great skill now and in the future, especially when youíre in a serious long-term relationship.
When you get angry, things can come of your mouth that sound good in the moment, but you regret later. Keeping your emotional response to a situation under control is critical if you want to avoid getting in trouble at home and at school. Often kids our age feel powerless in many situations and wind up saying things they donít mean or even acting out physically. Even if you donít feel in particular control of the situation, you do have a measure of control.
Creating the Time Out System
Take control by letting the adults in your life know that youíll need a time-out from time to time. Most likely, if they are already aware of your emotions, they will agree that this is a particularly mature decision and help you get this system set up. To take time-outs, youíll need a location to go both at home and at school. Time-outs donít work as well on the job. At school you might go sit in the front office or the office or room of your favorite teacher or counselor Ė a place where you feel safe and at peace. At home, your bedroom is a great choice, although others prefer to take a walk or sit on the porch for a minute in the fresh air.
Finally, youíll need an agreement from your teachers and parents that when you request a time-out, they grant you one and you go to your designated spot for ten minutes. This actually will give them a chance to cool down as well. Granted, if you seem to need a time-out every day, you might be abusing the system, but taking a time-out when you need it will give you a great way to better control your behavior.