What’s the essence of the time-out technique? I’m talking about the punitive time-out.
The essence of the time-out is, you’re saying to the four-year-old, “Kid, I know exactly what your biggest need is: the attachment relationship with me. Hence, I also know what your biggest fear is: the loss of that relationship. And do you know something, kid? I’m gonna use that against you! So whenever you displease me, I’m gonna threaten you with the loss of what you most cherish and need in this life!”
What is the impact?
Well, the first impact is that the kid promises to be good. Why? ‘cause you’ve scared him to death. Naturally you have. “Oh yeah, I’ll be good!”
And it works! They’ll be compliant for the next little while.
What’s the long-term impact?
Well, have you tried time-out in a teenager, recently?
"Oh…! You mean I don’t get to be in your august presence for the next three minutes? How unspeakably tragic!"
Because by that time, they’ve shut down, they don’t give a damn. They’ve also connected to the peer group [instead].
So don’t use methods of discipline that undermine the relationship. There’s ways of teaching discipline that don’t undermine the relationship.
Dr Gabor Maté
-cont or are you only referring to parents who would force them to clean/cook for money or basic privileges like playing outside? it’s a huge spectrum because no guidance often means that at 14,15 years old they’re having unprotected sex, doing drugs, getting in cars with strangers etcetc… it’s a huge spectrum and I know a lot about early childhood development and treating them like small people with validated opinions needs and ideas and not mini adults. WHICH MANY PEOPLE DO NOT DO!!
Yes, I am talking specifically about parents forcing children to—for example—do chores. It is good to create a household culture of responsibility, as your parents seem to have done. But whether or not this culture is created, parents still should never say, “Do the dishes because I say so.” That’s coercive.
“Please do the dishes because…” and then stating the reasons you actually want them to do the dishes, is a much better way of going about it, assuming you’ve created a space for them to say no. Which some kids will.
Some kids will grow into assholes. Sucks for you, but does not justify you coercing them. It just makes them an asshole. Which wouldn’t be so bad…. except that you’re forced to live together. (Not that refusing to do the dishes = being an asshole. I’m just thinking of extreme cases.)
Also, no control =/= no guidance. Giving your kids advice is guidance. Building trust with your kids from a young age so that they respect your advice is guidance. Showing them how to learn from their mistakes is guidance. None of these require coercion.
(And to be clear, when I talk about coercion, I’m not talking about preventing harm. If your child is about to run into traffic, physically restraining them is not coercive, even if they cry, kick, scream. If your child is abusing someone, protecting the victim is not coercive—even if it means controlling your child’s movement and access to technology.)
As for your specific examples. If there was space in our culture for healthy teenage sexuality (which there isn’t), and if young people learned about the risks of unprotected sex before puberty (which many don’t), there would be a lot less teens having unprotected sex. Children who know about child abduction are much less likely to get into cars. (I would also say that preventing a young child from getting into a car with a stranger would be an example of not-coercion-but-preventing-harm.) And drug abuse…we really can’t talk about without talking about addiction, which I don’t know enough about to say anything.
And finally, I am definitely NOT in favor of treating young people like “mini-adults.” But I would definitely like to get rid of this oversimplified child/adult distinction and instead talk about all the nuances of personal growth.
People enjoy contributing to each other’s wellbeing - if (and that’s a huge IF) they don’t hear a demand or criticism. When I know that if I don’t do the thing the other person is demanding, I will get punished or blamed or shamed or the other person will withdraw her love, I might do it in order to avoid those negative consequences but don’t expect me to enjoy it. On the other hand, if I get a genuine request and I have experienced in the past that the other person also cares about me and my needs and is willing to negotiate for a solution that is okay for both, and also that me saying ‘no’ is okay, then I don’t feel threatened in my autonomy and I can do tasks that I don’t particularly like, just because I’d enjoy to see the other person happy since she likes things to be tidy and/or because I myself like things to be tidy. Additionally it gives me the chance to learn how to negotiate, e.g. “I’m just too tired now, I had lots of stress at school today and just want to go and relax in my room. Can you do it today and I’ll do it the next two evenings?”
(Sometimes, when I see how the other person is struggling, there’s not even a request needed for me to help willingly, e.g. random acts of kindness to strangers, or toddlers in experimental situations).
So there’s a difference if the message is, “You have to do clean this because it’s your duty as a family member” versus “If you clean this, it would help keep the house tidy which would contribute to the well-being of the whole family and if you don’t feel like it at the moment, we (the parents) are interested in why and hopefully we can then find another solution that works for all.)
When young adults don’t know how to run a household I kind of wonder how their parents did run the household when these young adults were kids. Where did they put their toddler and young kids while they were doing the household? Young children are naturally curious and if you go to the laundry room and take your toddler with you, they will want to know what you’re doing. And if you run the dishwasher or clean the bathroom and your toddler sees you he might want to imitate you and then again you can explain what you’re doing and let them “help” you even if they make just a bigger mess because their motor skills are still developing. So just by observing and imitating, running a household would become a naturally learned and normal task.
And for the rest: As privileged-person said, not using punishment/blame/shame does not mean ‘no guidance’ or ‘being permissive’.
Of course, the older the child gets the more important the peers can become and so when they’re teens and another teen offers them some drug or incites them to having unprotected sex, that’s when you as a parent see how well you’ve taught them to be assertive (which starts by them being allowed to discuss and defend their own point of view at home!!) and how strong and trust-based your relationship is ( = them trusting you when you say that the misuse of drugs is unhealthy and explain why or that unprotected sex is dangerous and why, but also trust that they can come and seek help if their peers are forcing them to do things they don’t really want to do or tell you if they did a mistake and that they then will be not blamed but supported by you). So when the influence of the peers gets bigger, that’s particularly when you have to hold on to your kids and work on keeping the attachment bond strong and punishment/blame/coercion etc. weaken or destroy that attachment bond.
Children are people. They have their own needs, wants, and feelings. They are just learning about the world, and so they tend to act differently from adults. But this does not erase the fact that they are people; and as people, they deserve respect.
Children experience pain and joy and loss and longing and surprise and regret and elation and grief. To pretend that these emotions are less real, or less important, is a really fucking shitty thing to do.
What children find important may seem odd to older people. But when a child bursts into tears because Mrs. Teddy’s foot got muddy, it not a sign of emotional “immaturity.” It simply shows that (a) Mrs. Teddy’s cleanliness is extremely important to this child, (b) the child is only mildly upset but wants to communicate this emotion and defaults to tears, or (c) they’ve had a really shitty day and this is the breaking point.
And the very worst thing you can do is tell them they shouldn’t be crying. This just says their emotions are wrong. Which is a terrible message to send to kids.
Imagining children as complex beings means expanding our definition of personhood. It takes work. Be creative. Always, always look for the source of a child’s emotions and never, never, never deny them the right to their emotions by telling them they “shouldn’t be” sad/angry/etc.
this article communicates what i’m trying to say much better
(Then again I don’t think “child” is a coherent descriptive label…I wanted a quick way to say “pre-pubescent sorta. Like, small people who cry a lot.”)