Just Say No to the Naughty Mat: A Powerful Alternative to “Time Out”
By Vickie Falcone, M.A.
A well-known parenting television show has popularized the use of the “naughty mat” as a discipline technique. The concept is similar to the use of Time Out: When a child misbehaves, he is asked to go sit on the “naughty mat.” While on the mat, he is to ponder the error of his ways and return with improved behavior.
Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work. In many cases, when we claim, “it worked,” we mean simply that our child did what we wanted them to do. However, if our long-term goal is happy, cooperative children, these techniques ultimately don’t work.
In Parenting That Works!, I invite parents to embrace a new definition of “it worked.” When you say, “it worked,” make sure you can answer “yes” to these two questions in regards to discipline:
1. Did the level of cooperation and peace increase?
2. Was my child’s self-esteem enhanced (or at least not harmed)?
When you can answer, “yes” to these questions, you’ll know you’re parenting effectively.
Why “Time Out” Doesn’t Often Work and What Does
Self-Calming is an alternative to Time Outs that works because ultimately, it supports children in learning how to calm themselves and chose behaviors that are more appropriate and respectful.
|How They Differ:||Time Out||Self-Calming|
|Choosing a location…||is done by the parent.||is done by the child.|
|The child learns about this process by…||being sent by the parent.||parent modeling self-calming several times before ever asking the child to go.|
|How it’s done…||parent often uses an upset voice and child is “banished.”||parent uses a calm voice and may accompany the child to the space.|
|When does it end? …||parent chooses.||child decides, thus learning to monitor her behavior.|
|Goal:||to make the child feel bad, so that she won’t misbehave||to teach your child self-control and appropriate behavior, to|
How to ask a child to go to Self-Calming:
Before you need to use self-calming:
- Help your child choose a place she would like to go to calm down. Do this at a time when there is no upset happening.
- Parent models self-calming by going to their place to calm down when they are have an upset.
After inappropriate behavior happens:
- Get down on child’s level.
- Intend to be calm and loving.
- Say, “It looks like you need a self-calming break. Come back when you are ready to _______________.” (state the appropriate behavior—talk in a friendly voice, keep your hands to yourself, etc.).
- If child will not leave, give him a choice, “Would you like to go to your quiet space or would you like some help?”
- If the child will not go or if it escalates into a power struggle…YOU take the self-calming break. This will model both self-calming and taking care of yourself.
Remember, our goal is to teach children self-control
If you are willing to try any part of this more respectful approach, you’ll begin to reap the long-lasting rewards of a close, connected relationship with your child: closeness, mutual respect, and more cooperation.