Positive Time Out and Empathy

Here at Wonders, we believe children who feel better, behave better. We encourage children to explore their world, interact with friends, and engage in activities. Children are encouraged to use words to identify what they are feeling and communicate with their friends and teachers. We try to approach each situation with a positive attitude and outcome in mind. We want children to behave because they know what is right, rather than fear of punishment. The goal is to teach children that their actions have an effect on the world around them and it is okay to take some time and space when needed, or ask for what they need to feel better- wouldn’t the world be a better place if adults understood this very thing?

When a child decides that he/she does not want to behave in a kind way toward a friend, teacher, or material, they will be asked if they need to take some space until they feel better. If the child chooses not to take space, they will be asked to mend the situation (i.e.: pick up the thrown toy, show a gentle touch, check on their friend, etc.) If the child really needs a little time to cool down, but chooses not to do it on their own, the teacher will go with them to the designated quiet space and help them calm down. When the child is ready, they can return and help find a solution to the problem. A child will not be forced to stay in the quiet space for any length of time, just until they are calm and ready to mend the situation. It is a place for the child to go anytime they feel like they need to calm down, have some quiet time or space to themselves (we all need this permission sometimes) and they can return when they feel they are ready. If the child returns to the group, but doesn’t seem to be calm or feeling better, they will be encouraged to go back to the quiet space until they are really ready.

When the child returns to the group, they will be greeted warmly and asked if they are feeling better. The child will be reminded of the situation and asked to help find a solution.

Example: “oh Johnny, I am glad you took a little space to calm down. Are you feeling better? (Child has time to respond) “I understand that you were frustrated, but when you pushed Molly down, she got hurt and it made her feel sad. Can you show her a gentle touch and see if she is alright?” (For small children, guide their hands to show gentle touches until they can do it on their own.) “Nice job! Next time you feel frustrated, remember that we don’t need to push. You can take some space anytime you feel like you need a break.”

If a child is abusing a material/toy, they will be asked to change their behavior. “If you stand on that toy, you might break it or you could fall and get hurt. Can you please get down?” If the behavior continues, the child will be asked to use the material/toy correctly or to find another activity. If that still doesn’t resolve the situation, the material/toy will be removed and the child will be redirected to another activity.

We try to use a lot of redirection and positive language with our children. Instead of saying, “Don’t stand on the chair” we say, “I need your feet on the floor” for example. It is challenging at first, but this technique reminds us to focus on the positives and to be direct with our language.

As far as “The Space” goes, it is great to have the child (children) helps design a space that is comfortable and welcoming. There can be tools or reminders there of strategies (stress balls, anger hands, breathing techniques, etc) or maybe something to snuggle. Sometimes all a child really needs is a hug to feel better.

(For more information on this technique, check out “Positive Time-Out” by Jane Nelson)


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