I am wrapping up this series with one of my very favorite heart parenting strategies. I actually learned of it about six years ago, when I attended a workshop at a homeschool convention, taught by on of the parent presenters trained by the National Center for Biblical Parenting (the ministry founded by authors Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN).I clearly remember going to that session because Ben was 7-years-old and had become quite the handful. I still remember that year to be one of the THE toughest of our lives. And I will be forever grateful that I sat in on this session to learn how better to handle him.I’ll be honest and tell you that I do not remember everything that sweet lady taught us that day, but I do remember this technique — using “breaks” rather than “time-outs.”Up until that day, we had used the traditional time-out when Ben needed a moment to collect himself. True to the traditional parenting book fashion, I would make Ben sit on a step or stand in a corner, one minute for every year of his young life. That was it.Disobey? Go stand in the corner for 7 minutes. Lose control and throw a fit? Go sit on the step for 7 minutes.Time’s up, now. Tell me why you had to sit on the step? Okay, great. Go play!
Here’s the big difference between a time-out and a break. With a time-out, the purpose is more of a punishment. You disobeyed, therefore you have to stand in the corner for so many minutes, after which you are free to go.
With a break, there is no time limit. The purpose is for the child to calm down, think about what he’s doing, and them come back to you when he’s ready for a change of heart. Showing a heart change includes the following:
- Taking as much as is needed (the amount of time is up to the child, but life basically stops for him until he settles down).
- Being willing to make a heart change (settling down the emotions and being willing to talk about what happened).
- The debriefing. Once the child is settled down and ready for a heart change, a meaningful conversation between parent and child can occur.
In our home, the debriefing time has several biblical components:
- A statement from Ben of what happened (confession)
- A statement from Ben of how things could have been done differently (repentence)
- An apology and request for forgiveness
- Forgiveness is given
- Physical affection (a loving hug)
- Assurance of love
We have now been using this method for 5 years. Sometimes, Ben needs about a 2-minute break, because he often recognizes he’s done wrong immediately and is remorseful and ready to heal the hurt right away. Other times, he can be more stubborn — especially if he believes he’s been wronged. Those breaks can take hours, usually with him coming out several times during those hours without a heart change, just wanting to argue his point. You just cannot allow that to happen. If your child comes out too soon, send him right back to your boring, break place until your child is ready to have sincere conversation. Ben’s usual spot is the top of our basement steps, but if things are really bad, I send him to the shower.
What I love most about this method is that Ben has learned several lessons. He knows how to calm himself and be more self-controlled, sin separates him from those he loves, confession and repentance of sin heals those relationships, and we will always forgive and love him no matter what he does wrong. This is such a superb model of biblical parenting and a clear representation of how our heavenly Father disciplines us.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Oh, and moms — sometimes it’s us who needs to take the break. Feel free to follow the above example for yourself as well. My family knows that if I say I need to take a break and then go into my bedroom and shut the door, I am doing my own much-needed heart work, and they generally leave me alone to get that done.
You are never too old to take a break!