This is the fifth post in a series expanding on 20 Things I Learned from My Toddler.
Just sitting still in a chair for two minutes can turn a whole day around.
Before witnessing the power of timeouts as a parent, I had no idea how powerful they are. As our son Tristen approached the notorious age of 2, we had found it necessary to give him timeouts when his behavior gets out of control. In two minutes, he will go from kicking and screaming to being calm and snuggly. Sometimes, just mentioning a timeout is enough to snap him out of an impending tantrum.
The power of timeouts does not lose effectiveness as we get older. When overwhelmed, frustrated or experiencing a progressive rage, taking two minutes to remove ourselves from a situation can offer calm and clarity. Even if it is not possible to physically remove ourselves, just mentally clearing our heads with a few deep breaths can turn things around.
How Timeouts Work
When enforced consistently, timeouts put toddlers in a mode of powerlessness. This mode forces them to let go of whatever it was that frustrated them. It frees them from their haste and perceived need to control a situation. It changes their focus and turns their minds to other things: usually more pleasant things.
In both adults and children, rage and frustration are usually a result of focusing on and attempting to control situations of which we have little or no control. And by doing so, we fail to place attention on things that we can control. We exert energy chipping away at boulders with butter knives when there is an easy path around the boulders leading to where we want to be.
In the grip of frustration, it is difficult to see solutions. In fact, there is often a desire to focus on and magnify the problem in order to validate and justify our frustration. But, if we force ourselves to stop dealing with a problem for a little while by committing to a timeout, we break the cycle of frustration and invite acceptance, solutions and even gratitude.