Teach Children to Take a Break

When you begin to see a bad attitude or hear that manipulative whining voice, have your child take a Break. With young children, as young as two or three years old, have them sit in a particular place, a chair, a carpet square, the hallway, or a bottom step. For older children, you might send them to the parent's room or to another quiet place.

We believe that the Break is much more helpful than Time Out. The instructions given are simple and clear. "You need to go take a Break. Come back and see me when you've calmed down and are ready to talk about this nicely."

Two differences are important. The child knows that the objective in taking a Break is a changed heart and also the child helps determine the length of time spent in the break place, coming back only when ready for a debriefing.

These two differences between Time Out and the Break change the posture of the parent. With Time Out, the parent is the policeman, keeping the child in the chair until the sentence for misbehavior has been served. With the Break, the parent is eagerly waiting for the child to return so that they can debrief and more forward.

The Break helps parents address heart issues with children and can become a primary discipline technique. It actually comes from the Bible in the teaching about discipline in God's family, the Church (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, and 2 Corinthians 2). The idea is basically this: If you can't abide by the principles that make this family work, then you can't enjoy the benefits of family life. The two go hand in hand.

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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  1. This comment came into our office by email:

    I believe in productive breaks. Take a break & while you're there organize the sock drawer. Something otherwise mindless to mitigate the stinking- thinking- that- takes- place- in- removal- from- the- inner- circle- for behavior- time. This way 2 objectives are accomplished: cool down period & a visible accomplishment. When the offense has been really odious the break should be more severe. We call those breaks: on the rock pile. My kids literally clean out our landscaped rock beds!

  2. This comment also came into our office by email:

    Through my experience, it is very wise to know that two children are not alike. My first child was really patient and obedient, not a lot of hassle. But my second has sensory problems that we didn't know until about age 2, so it was really frustrating until we learned he had to be disciplined a whole other way. So, be patient and see if you notice things that could be different for your children because one way is not always the best way. I know you probably already know this but it would be great to have a reminder. Thanks a bunch. God Bless you.

  3. This comment also came into our office by email:

    When I tell my child to take a break, she goes to her own room. I tell her to call me when she is ready to talk. I am not always able to come immediately when she calls. I tell her I will come as soon as I can-never more than five minutes. Is this ok, or should I be available to her immediately? In our family, we have a lot of trouble with jelously over Mom's time. I want to be available to her, but not at her beck and call.

  4. All kids are different but it's often best to have the child come back to you instead of calling you to come to her. Then you can take a break and finish the correction with a positive conclusion. If you're busy, sometimes you have to postpone the ending a bit, but usually you'll want to take a moment and finish the correction and move forward. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Here's a comment that came via email:

    we call "The Break" that you just mentioned in this email, "The Choosing Chair." We explain that she can choose her attitude and that her time in the chair is for her to make that choice.

  6. Taking a break concept is even more important for children in single parent families. Let's face it, who has time to force a child to stay in time out? Our lives are hectic enough and many single parents simply don't follow through on time outs. Taking a break empowers your child as it gives them some control over their issues.

    The other issue is many children in single parent homes have seen an adult in their life get out of control. They may have witnessed parents arguing or fighting before the break up. As a single parent you may have to model taking a break yourself. After a disturbing phone call from an angry ex, take a break. Grab a cup of tea and go to your room. Leave your bedroom door open so your children can see you taking your break.

    I have found it's good to role play "taking a break" with your child. Keep in mind that at the other parent's home, they may still be using time outs so you will need to explain the difference. Use Dr. Turansky and Joanne Miller's explanation.

  7. This comment came in through email:

    I am an Occupational Therapist who specializes in sensory integration issues in children. I always recommend giving all children "sensory breaks" according to the need of each child (some will need them more frequently or for longer duration than others). So not only do you need a "break", but ideally it would be a break with limited sensory stimuli.

    Some ideas for this would be in a small tent with pillows, books, stuffed animals, etc.; in a closet with the same on the floor; in a 2 foot space between the bed and a wall, or some other cozy area. Listening to digital books with headphones is a great way to limit auditory input to just what comes over the cd, and lights should be low or off. I also recommend not going straight from school to do errands if at all possible, since a preschool classroom is about as sensory-rich as you can get!

    For your article, you may also want to look into "The Alert Program", also known as "how does your engine run." This is a method to teach children and parents how to be cognitively aware of your own arousal state. It teaches the analogy of a car engine, i.e. the engine runs slow, just right, or fast. Instead of just right, I call it medium in order to remove any value judgement from the other two states. You wouldn't expect a preschooler to identify their own state, but they can be taught to recognize what a parent means when they tell a child their "engine is too fast, time to take a break to slow it down."

    There are a lot of great ideas out there in the Sensory Integration/Processing Disorder literature for children and adults... I recommend checking it out for your articles!

    Cheryl Mock, OTR