The Naughty Step is traumatising our children

Posted by Samantha on October 20, 2012 in Boundaries, Connection, Consequences, Discipline, Punishment, Time Out |

The Naughty Step kills connection…and if the connection is lost then we’re in trouble as parents…

This week the participants on my Update Your Parenting workshop were discussing the use of Time Out and the Naughty Step.  I was reminded once again of how much Supernanny has impacted parents since she first aired in 2004.  Just about everyone attending the workshop was using some version of Time Out.

My advice to parents is that they immediately stop using Time Out as a punishment and start using it as an opportunity to teach kids how to calm down.  For this reason I call my version of this parenting strategy Time Out….to Calm Down.

There are a few really important differences between the Beyond Supernanny version of Time Out and the Supernanny version.

  1. Time Out works better if the parent stays with a younger child
  2. You will need to stay with ANY child who is prone to getting very distressed at being separated from you
  3. Time Out is not punishment….it is teaching our children to self-soothe by breathing, positive self-talk and removing themselves from an overwhelming situation
  4. It is best if Time Out lasts between 30 seconds and 2 minutes – or as long as is needed to calm a child who has become very overwhelmed
  5. Sorry should not be forced at the end of Time Out
  6. Time Out is best followed by Time In – e.g. a hug, a joke, a chance to save face, a chance to reconnect through sharing a task etc…
  7. Time Out may actually be needed by the parent instead of / as well as the child!

If all this seems very far from how you do Time Out now, and what you’re doing now seems to work, you may like to know that child development and trauma experts are confirming what I realised 5 years ago through personal experience with my own son:

Time Out Supernanny style (putting a child in a “boring” place and ignoring them for a period of time equivalent to one minute per year of age) is shaming and traumatising our children.

We have known for decades that the effect of separation from parents goes through 3 stages:

Distress, despair, detach.

If we do not respond lovingly to our children when they are in distress, their distress escalates to full-blown despair.  If we continue to ignore them while they are in this state of despair, they will eventually detach.  What does detachment look like?  It looks like the Naughty Step is working.  The problem behaviour stops in the moment.  But it always returns because the Naughty Step approach does not address the needs behind the behaviour.

Detached from what you may ask?

Detached from their belief that the world is a safe and benign place where their needs will be met.  And ultimately, detached from you.

This is the uncomfortable truth.  Our children are detaching from us.  This is why we have limited influence as they get older.  To protect themselves from the hurt that we cause them when we do not comfort them when they need it, they detach themselves from their need for us.

Of course it is an illusion that they do not need us.  But it is an understandable strategy to limit their hurt.

We did not mean to do this when we began using the Naughty Step.  But as I am fond of saying, the data is in.

It is time to ditch this punishing parenting strategy.  Our relationship with our children is at stake.

 

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