Although timeouts can seem like a much better alternative to physical punishment, they're still not a great option for children in the long run.
In Alfie Kohn's book, Unconditional Parenting, he provides research that shows a punishment-based approach to compliance (including timeouts), is damaging to children's emotional development.
Here are the 3 reasons why:
So what can we offer children that will support their development into healthy, caring adults?
A Montessori Peace Corner is a wonderful alternative to timeouts.
It's simply a quiet space for a child to be alone. It's a place meant to help them relax, reflect, and rest.
The goal is for the child to feel calm in this space, to know that they can go to this space when they need a break.
As with most things in a Montessori environment, it is for the child. It is not a space for adults and it's not punitive. In fact, it loses its purpose once it becomes punitive.
You don't have to overthink it. The picture below is the peace corner is my oldest son's Pre-Casa classroom.
It's very simple, with just a few cushions and some books, but you can customize it to your child. Here's a few suggestions:
For an older toddler (2.5+), you could ask them what they want to keep in their peace corner and include them in preparing it. This makes it even more meaningful for them.
Typically, a child will choose to go to the peace corner whenever they need or want to and it’s always available.
In the classroom, sometimes a teacher will initiate it. You can do this at home too, if you feel like your child needs a break. Toddlers and preschoolers are developing their self-regulation skills and require guidance.
When you’re 2 and don’t have the life experience or language skills to understand or express how you feel, it can be hard to know when you’re overstimulated.
You can say things like “Do you want to go have some time in the peace corner?” or “Let’s go to the peace corner and take a break. Should I read us a story?”. Both are said in a positive tone, not as a threat.
The child is also always allowed to say no.
You want to create positive associations with it so that the child wants to go there and recognizes it as a place to be calm. It will eventually become one of their self-regulation strategies, i.e. “I’m so angry, I need some time alone in the peace corner so I can feel better.”
In Casa Classrooms, peace corners are occasionally used for conflict resolution between 2 children. It's the same idea, you're providing a safe space for them to talk about how they feel but in this case an adult would facilitate the conversation between children until they reach an age where they can talk it through themselves. You could use a similar strategy with older children.
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