time outs, withdrawal of love

I was in a bit of a funk last week because of a little tiff I had with someone I care about. OK, it wasn’t so little–feelings were hurt and that’s never to be minimized. We used our words and talked about it, processed it, and moved forward. Took a few days, but it’s all good now. I don’t take that for granted–I am grateful we are able to use our words to resolve hurts.

In processing it all, I realized that I was feeling better because he was connecting with me again, reaching out to me again, showing affection to me again. It was when I felt he was withholding–for whatever reason: be it hurt, anger, need for space or time to think, whatever–that was when I was feeling uncertain and anxious and scared and sad.

And then I remembered a theory about the use of  time-outs and children that I heard a few years ago (stick with me here–this tangential thought will make sense in a minute): regardless of how time-outs are done, regardless of why they’re done, it is essentially a withholding or withdrawal of love and affection and attention and connection from the child; and it’s terrifying and scary and sad. They don’t learn from the mistake of the tantrum or bad behavior, but instead learn obedience begets love and attention, and disobedience begets a cleaving of love. And that in the end, they’re left with anxiety because of the perceived withholding of love and connection. It’s how they perceive it, even if it’s not true, that matters.

Since hearing this perspective, I’ve considered it at times with my daughter. She has responded better to positive parenting techniques than negative consequences. When I remember to use other management techniques other than time-outs, she responds well. When she’s done something she knows she shouldn’t (throws a tantrum or hits instead of using her words), she’s in a great deal of distress. She climbs into her crazy tree and loses all control of her emotions. In the past when I’d place her in a time-out, she would escalate and it could literally be hours until she could calm down. Now, she comes to me after a transgression, wailing, asking for a hug. She just needs to connect with me, receive some affection, before she can re-ground herself and calm down enough to stop the behavior and rectify it. She just needs reassurance. She just needs to know she’s loved even when she has behaved poorly. Don’t we all?

It occurred to me today that now I really understand how she feels, and I am so very sorry for her feeling like I withheld my love in the past to her. She just wants to be loved after the people she trusts the most sees she is flawed and makes mistakes because she is human. Don’t we all?

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1 Response to Time-Out

  1. Anonymous says:

    I discovered the same thing with my daughter. Her fits got dramatically better when I learned to hug and stroke her back and and hair until she calms down her panic enough to deal with it through words. Then we discuss what I was upset about. I find I have to continually remind her that being upset about something that happened doesn’t mean I think badly of her and that I love her ALWAYS, even when I’m upset. That anchoring really seems to help her.


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