Immature behaviour is when someone acts on an emotion without thinking. They go straight from feeling to acting. They feel angry, and so they lash out and hit. They want a toy, and they just snatch from another child. They feel hungry, so they just take food straight from the cupboard.

Part of good discipline is to insert some thinking between the feeling and acting. All the discipline techniques we teach are designed to slow kids down so they can actually do a bit of thinking before they act. When it’s done well, time out does that. Too often time-out and similar techniques like the quiet-time chair or the corner technique are just used as punishments. In my mind, punishment is not discipline. What parents often call discipline is actually revenge: “You’ve made me feel bad, so I’m going to make you feel bad.” Real discipline looks less at whatever a child did wrong and more at how they are going to make a better decision next time. You are not like a prosecutor focused on the crime but more like a coach who has picked up on something that needs working on.

A good way to start is to quieten them down so their emotions will cool off and let their brains work – that’s the real purpose of time out – and then your questions, “What will be a better way to get what you want?” You are moving them on from ‘I feel so I act’ on to better behaviour based on ‘I feel, I think, I act’.

Interestingly, as adults we struggle to do that as well. Most of our decisions are made emotionally rather than logically. If we do do some thinking, it is to justify the decision we have already made. Maybe we need to give ourselves some time-out and learn how to think, too.

For more, check out John’s corner.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    rochelle tuwhangai on

    that is exactly right we as adults do forget to think before we act and it takes its toll out on us. when we are not in sync with each other we feel then act and hardly ever think which is what i go through everyday with my partner and its stressing me out to the point where every little and big thing we do ends up in arguments. I’m so glad i read your article to remind myself to think before i act and hopefully it catches on in my family sooner rather than later. thank you for this article

    • Avatar
      Judith Frogley on

      Could you please advise me whether you have had a course in Orewa this year on child behaviour. We have a very fiesty 8 yr old is the youngest of 3 boys. If things don’t go his way he packs a sad, lashes out at his mother destroys things. Has a don’t care attitude. I have a feeling l read where you were coming to Orewa doing a course on child behavior.
      Maybe l have missed it. Can you help me. Concerned grandmother.

      • Avatar

        Hi Judith, I suggest getting in touch with our Auckland North coordinator who will be able to give you all of the information you require. If there is no course close by to you at the moment she will be able to let you know when the next one will be. Her details are: Diane McKinstry 021 292 4105 | aucklandnorth@theparentingplace.com

    • Avatar

      Same here!!!!
      Good article, one thing I think Im going to do is , use neon post it notes, write on them with a few different reminders for not just my 3 Teens, but me too!!!

      • Avatar

        Same here!!!!
        Good article, one thing I think Im going to do is , use neon post it notes, write on them with a few different reminders for not just my 3 Teens, but me too!!!