Examining the things that every parent of a young child has said in moments of extreme frustration, and why experts say you should stop yourself short the next time.
The tipping point of parental frustration has a distinct sound: Mom or dad, a forehead vein about to pop, screaming at a child, "That's it! You're on a time out!"
Research has shown there's a healthy, productive way of administering time outs. It involves warning children in advance that unacceptable behaviour will result in a "break," strict time limits and positive reinforcement when they return.
That way might fly in the lab, but over here in reality, things are different.
"In the real world, many parents I know personally and many of the parents I treat professionally don't use time outs like that," says Dr. Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-author of No-Drama Discipline.
No, here in the real world, "they use them, No.1, when they're desperate and feeling angry," Siegel says. As well, most parents use time outs for much longer than is appropriate (one minute for a one-year-old, two minutes for a two-year-old up to five minutes, max).
"I know parents who have given their kids time outs for 45 minutes. It was never planned that way," Siegel says.
But it works, right? Well, it depends how you define "works." Sure, most times the kid comes back quiet and agreeing to not do whatever it was they did to land in child jail, but is that really a win?
Siegel doesn't think so.
"It's done in a humiliating way and it's not followed by positive connection with you," he says.
As usual, patience is the key to getting it right. Siegel suggests that instead of screaming "Time out!" you should make it clear to kids, before any bad behaviour, that acting out of line will result in them having to take a break.
"Ideally it's not in a separate room," Siegel says. When their time is up (again, five minutes max) you establish that positive connection, which could mean some firm but loving words that makes clear to the kid you didn't just put him in the emotional penalty box because you're sick of him.
Then, talk through the situation to help kids learn to better regulate their emotions, thus reducing the likelihood of future freakouts.
You don't need to go all Dr. Phil, but you do need to invest more into the process than is typically common.
"It shouldn't be just, 'You're on your own … now you can come back,'" Siegel says.