Okay, I have to be very honest with you all and admit I really cannot stand time-out for children under the age of 7. The rationale that many parents use for time-out is that “my children need to think about what they have done.” This, to me, contradicts the view of a small child under the age of 7 from a Waldorf educator’s point of view. From a Waldorf perspective, we do not expect small children to be able to reflect on what they have done in a HEAD manner – we would, however, expect them to help the situation by using their BODIES and their HANDS. That is a big difference.
The other rationale that parents use for time-out is for when children behaving badly and out of control. The Waldorf perspective would point to the fact that small children under the age of 7 need their parents’ physical presence, gentle words and gentle hands to help them come back to their bodies. Sometimes the best place for that is to provide something rhythmical to do, or to provide our bodies in a rocking chair for the rhythmical activity.
From an attachment parenting standpoint, there are attached families who do consider the use of time-out consistent with their philosophy. However, I ask you to respectfully consider the following:
“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.
Alfie Kohn discusses the history of time-out: “Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.
So how about some tools to try instead:
Environmental Control – child-proof your house so you do not have to keep saying “no” to everything and policing everything
Going outside and having
Having a stronger rhythm to your day of interesting things to do
Listening to your child
Empathy – now with WORDS for the under 7 crowd, but with smiles, hugs, and warmth
Time-In with you, holding
If you cannot hold your child, have the child near you while you are doing something rhythmical and start to tell a small story. Many times this is enough to shift the mood in the space. Then you can later go back to the situation and try to make it better.
If YOU need to gain control and take a small break outside that is different than sending a small under 7 child away!
Also, there is nothing wrong with giving the child an option to go to her room or another place when she is upset – as long as it is an option and the child controls the leaving, where to go in the house, what to do, when to come back).
You may agree or disagree with me, but these are just a few of my thoughts from my little corner of the world.