You’ve heard of time outs for children, I’m sure? For clarity’s sake: some people use time outs as a method of shaping children’s behaviour. The child crosses a boundary and is sent into a ‘time out’ space (often a chair to sit on), with the intention that they then reflect on their behaviour and correct it. I don’t love this strategy because of the element of shame and exclusion (not to mention the unrealistic expectation that very little children can reflect on their behaviour – they cannot because such a concept is too abstract!). However, I am a fan of time outs for parents.

Before you furrow your brow in confusion at the visual of an adult being sent to a time out chair, please know that’s not quite what I mean. What I mean with a parent’s time out is a chance to notice when you feel emotionally overwhelmed, and instead of letting your actions be coloured by those feelings, you offer yourself a quick break from the situation before returning to parent more effectively once your emotions have been regulated.

We’ve all been there when our frustration takes over and we project that frustration through our parenting by yelling or saying things that are unhelpful. Instead of following the big feelings to a conclusion that doesn’t fit who you want to be for your child, I invite you to take a break. Leave the room for a minute or two. Drink some water. Take some slow breaths. Go for a walk if you have more time and there is another adult to stay with the kids.

What these time outs do is give you space to interrupt the pattern of your fear system taking over and instead to regulate your feelings back to a place of calm so you can act by your values. This is where you are able to choose differently. To reparent yourself and be who you needed when you were younger. And to be the parent you want to be for your child.

Notice yourself escalating because your feelings are intensifying? Give yourself a time out and to break the cycle of letting your emotions control you.