The Time Out is a disciplinary tool used by parents to correct bad behavior. The idea is to send a child to a particular place so that he can think about his bad behavior, or simply feel the consequences of misbehaving by having to sit still, quietly and alone for a few minutes (or what seems like an eternity for a young child). Yet, a new way to look at the Time Out, is to give our children the opportunity to have some quiet time, in a peaceful place, to regroup and calm down, rather than separating or isolating the child as a form of punishment. Linda Lantieri, author of Building Emotional Intelligence, Techniques To Cultivate Inner Strength In Children, encourages parents to create a space where a child can have a “time in,” a peaceful place where the child can take a break from whatever may be upsetting him, where he can foster his own ability to calm down, reduce stress, quiet anger or eliminate frustration. This ability to find that inner peace and quiet when faced with adversity or challenges is an incredibly important skill for our children to develop, and for us to nurture in ourselves as well. As adults, I think we all need to give ourselves a Time Out (or a Time In) at least once a day, not as a form of punishment, but rather as a reward. In a world full of noises and distractions, it is very difficult to find any quiet time during the day. Most of us start our days in a great rush, hurrying the kids off to school and rushing to work. And that is just the beginning. The frantic pace, noises and distractions just keep coming -- we have iPods playing, radios buzzing, kids screaming, co-workers gabbing, phones ringing, text messages beeping, e-mails blinking, and televisions blaring. It is no wonder that with all of this external stimulation our minds are racing and unfocused. We are so busy trying to digest and decipher all of this noise that we often end up irritable, distracted and stressed out.
I remember when my children were little, my house was a cacophony of little voices needing something, Elmo’s World playing on the television, and at least one child crying. During those days, the peace and quiet of my tiny clothes closet seemed appealing to me as a secret getaway from the noise. I would think, “Would anyone even notice if I went inside for a few minutes and shut the door?” The idea of five minutes of peace and quiet sounded quite nice to me, even if it was in my closet. Back then, even the stillness of my bathroom was a pleasant break, until the pitter patter of little feet entering the bathroom and at least one child demanding my attention, with complete disregard for my need for a minimal amount of privacy, would inevitably turn what is usually considered a very personal space into a public forum for all to enter. (Oh the joys of motherhood!)
The challenge then, as it is now, is to find that peaceful and quiet space for even a short time each day to gather our thoughts, center ourselves and feel a sense of calm and OK-ness that we all need. Taking a personal Time Out could mean a quiet walk outdoors, with no cell phone calls or music playing, and simply noticing how still and quiet the trees are. Connecting to nature offers us an amazing sense of stillness and calm. It could also mean turning the radio OFF in the car for a few minutes and simply enjoying the calm of a quiet car ride, rather than driving with the music playing or the distraction of disturbing news stories stealing our attention. Your Time Out could also be closing your office door for five minutes, and simply shutting your eyes and breathing. Try it and you will see that this simple act of giving yourself a Time Out can break the chain of noise and distraction that seems to build up throughout the day. It is also very helpful to take a Time Out in the heat of the moment before hitting send on an angry e-mail or before responding unkindly to someone in a manner you might later regret. In those instances, a little Time Out can be incredibly useful to pause before acting, to collect your thoughts and to settle your emotions. It is in the quiet and stillness of our Time Out that we can have the opportunity to regroup and reset ourselves, and quiet our minds so that we can continue on with clarity and a sense of calm. So, tomorrow, Time Outs for everyone!