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"In a brain scan, relational pain — that caused by isolation during punishment — can look the same as physical abuse," observes Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson in their Time article, "'Time-Outs' Are Hurting Your Child."
"When children are overtaxed emotionally, they sometimes misbehave; their intense emotions and the demands of the situation trump their internal resources. The expression of a need or a big feeling therefore results in aggressive, disrespectful, or uncooperative behavior — which is simply proof that children haven’t built certain self-regulation skills yet. Misbehavior is often a cry for help calming down, and a bid for connection....
"When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet. In fact, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain — like that caused by rejection — looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity....
"On top of everything, time-outs are usually ineffective in accomplishing the goals of discipline: to change behavior and build skills. Parents may think that time-outs cause children to calm down and reflect on their behavior. But instead, time-outs frequently make children angrier and more dysregulated, leaving them even less able to control themselves or think about what they’ve done, and more focused on how mean their parents are to have punished them.
"Next time the need for discipline arises, parents might consider a 'time-in': forging a loving connection, such as sitting with the child and talking or comforting. Some time to calm down can be extremely valuable for children, teaching them how to pause and reflect on their behavior. Especially for younger children, such reflection is created in relationship, not in isolation. And all of this will make parenting a whole lot more effective and rewarding in the long run."
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