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Time Out for a Time In

Terri Poppins, poppin’ in….

The idea of a “time out” period for a child is actually a great idea and can be a very healthy and rewarding practice, but it must be used in an encouraging, non-punishing way. So perhaps we could change the idea of a “time out” to a “time out for a time in”, a necessary time to reflect on what feelings and emotions are moving through a child inwardly.

Many parents typically issue a “time out” as a sort of punishment for what they believe is a wrong-doing or ill-behavior of a child. Just as I brought up in a prior blog of mine, what is it in us that judges a child’s behavior as “wrong”? Perhaps that is a vital question that we need to ask ourselves.

Where did we learn that it’s “wrong” for a child to mouth off, to act out his or her emotion in public places, or to throw a major temper tantrum when simply asked to do something? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer would be “We learned the art of judgment from our parents, from society and others around us.” Judging others is a “hand-me-down” way of life.

Because, if you are willing to see it, how can it be “wrong” when a child is simply “acting out” a “learned” behavior that they didn’t give themselves?? That seems like a simple enough question, right? How can it be “wrong” when, most of the time, a child is simply “acting out” a pattern that was previously enabled by the parent or learned from others?

In one respect, you could actually say that the “acting out” of that behavior is “right”. Not right in the sense of “proper and centered”, but right in the sense that they learned perfectly how to mimic and act out what they did. And when their behavior is displayed in front of our eyes, we are able to see where it is that we have missed the mark with them. That’s perfection. Life’s perfection. How else would we be able to see what was created through our inattention?

That is not to say that there aren’t certain behaviors that are truly destructive and need addressing, so I’m certainly not discounting that.

Who doesn’t need a “time in” when a part of ourselves is all caught up in an emotional negative state? When something in me has “latched” onto anger, resentment or sadness, I have truly benefited by sitting quietly and taking time away from what I am doing in that moment in order to just to be with that negative state. No “wanting it to go away”, “no pushing it away”, just allowing it to be there and pass through me as it will. Taking a “time in” such as that will change the past patterns of those states. The more we work with them in that regard, the less “grip” those states will have on us every time they come around.

Communication with a child is everything. Speaking to a child about emotional negative states that move through all of us is very essential in their development. What if we were to share with a child that these states come and go all the time, and that we don’t need to “latch” onto them as they are moving through us, or do what they want us to do (lash out). It is important that children understand that negative states are nothing to be afraid of and can be worked with in a right and proper way.

Perhaps amidst one of these negative states, we could ask the child to sit, close their eyes, and see if they are able to inwardly “see” and “feel” the anger or sadness to the best of their ability to do so (with deep breaths). We might share with them that these states are like clouds in the sky that are just meant to pass through, but if we hold onto them, they stick around. Learning to work with negative states in this way can help a young child in their forthcoming life, to strengthen their willingness to go beyond parts of themselves that only want to keep them captive in negativity.

This is also where cultivating your child’s attention will come into play very nicely. The more we work with our children in cultivating their attention, the more they will be able to “be” with the negative state when it arises in them. Of course, like all things, this takes time and effort. Be patient with your child. Be patient with yourself.

This practice will become a fruitful habit that can (and should) become as customary in a child’s life as brushing their teeth.

The world spends so much money on “self-help” related issues. Most of these issues stem from a misunderstanding, a lack of understanding about these negative states that arise in us. The only price that really needs to be paid, is the price of sacrificing ourselves in the moment that these negative states arise in us, that want to judge, blame and punish others. To stop, drop and endure them, so that others and ourselves do not suffer needlessly. We then suffer the past patterns so that something new can come in.

Exercise: Spend some time with your child when you see that they are caught in a negative state such as anger, blame, etc. Sit with them and work to share this information. Be sure to do that first because when we are in the midst of these negative states, it can become difficult to be a good “listener”. Take deep breaths with them. Ask them if they can feel what is moving through them. Share with them that is all they need to do – just agree to allow the dark cloud to move through.

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