Adult time outs are just as important as kid time outs

The Importance of Grown Up Time Outs

I am a big believer and practitioner of grown up time-outs. I feel that they can make you a better person.

Grown up timeouts have a different goal than the ones children have.

In kids, it is used for behavior modification.  A child has broken the rules, they are taken out of their situation so they can calm down and reflect and, hopefully, realize the consequences of their actions.  Adults also need to calm down and reflect but their ultimate goal is to prevent bad reactions or behavior.  Or basically, modify our behavior before it occurs.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in, what you do for a living, who your family is, or what type of temperament you have, we all need a time out sometimes.

Why they are beneficial

It gives you time to discern what the real problem is. Many times by the time you’ve reached your time-out threshold, the thing that brought you there is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Things have not been going according to plan and you have been patient and you get loaded down with problems, and mishaps, and responsibilities and someone presents you with that straw (say a child who has broken their glasses for a second time)  and you are ready to go into a complete meltdown (screaming, yelling, pounding, and a general over dramatic display)… STOP!  TIME OUT!  If you take the time out you can use it to figure out if it was the straw that is really the problem or one of the earlier items in the day.  Maybe it’s your health or you’re exhausted and you need to rest.

Whatever the real problem is, you can now address it.

It keeps you from committing over reactions and downright inappropriate responses.  A temper tantrum from an adult of any age is never cute.  Most times it does more damage.  Once you display outrageous behavior it totally negates any legitimate claim you may have.  This is true with parent/child relationships, romantic relationships, and office relationships as well.  Take a minute to calm down so you aren’t over the top.

A grown up time out can save you from regret. Click To Tweet

It saves you from regrets. When our tempers flare we can say things and do things we will regret later.  Really it is inappropriate response taken to the next level.  It may be name calling or something that would deliberately hit below the belt.  Or just crazy.

I have a friend who was beside herself that her child was not doing his chores as instructed. When she asked the son why he wasn’t doing them, he grunted and looked back to the tablet he was looking at.  She grabbed it out of his hand, threw it to the ground and stomped on it, screaming, swearing, and name calling all the while.  Only to find out that it was his friend’s tablet.  She had to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a new one. She acted so outlandishly that no one felt any empathy because her son didn’t take the garbage out and the son now spends a lot of time avoiding her. She now regrets her actions.  It’s not the kind of legacy a mother wants to leave.

She should have taken a timeout.

How to take a grown up time out with kids

When you take a time out the first thing you should do is to take some deep breaths.  Count to ten.  Or do your favorite version of a quick meditation.  You need to calm yourself.

If you are able (this depends on your location and circumstances) remove yourself from the circumstances.  I am not advocating that you leave the children in an unsafe situation.  If they are safe, let them know you are leaving and will be back.  Leave the room, go outside, sit somewhere outside of their sight.  Take out any aggression in a way that will not harm you- punch that pillow, pace back and forth, have a good cry.

When you are able to control yourself, or at any time you need to further monitor them, that is when you return.

Taking a time out at work

Most of us have an amazing ability to control ourselves at work so we can keep a paycheck.  That, however, can also manifest other stress.  You can take a bathroom break and do some quick breathing exercises.  You can leave at lunch and walk it off or drive to a park and sit in nature or just close your eyes in the front seat of your car to compose yourself.  Whatever will make the rest of your day bearable.

Taking a time out from other adults

It might be your spouse, your friend, or family member but we can take a momentary break by finding an excuse to leave the room (beware that people may assume you are having medical issues if you stay in the bathroom too long).  Try to take that time to just calm down.  If they are on the phone with you then take that imaginary important phone call on the other line.

Scheduling longer timeouts

If you are stressed and frazzled and need more than a few minutes to chill out you can schedule some downtime and self-care.  An hour or two to schedule a nap, an outing, or some pampering is going to help your blood pressure in the long run.

If you are noticing patterns about situations and times that are particularly hard for you, take a time out before you go into it.  Do some meditation or something calming to soothe yourself so you can go into the situation protecting yourself and your sanity.

Regardless of how or why you are taking the time out, just remember that it will keep you from additional anguish later. You will thank yourself later, as will all those around you.

Photo Credit: Solyanka

Please share a story where a timeout helped you or an embarrassing moment that probably would have benefited from a time out.


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