Gentle Parenting: The Calm Down Corner

I’ve never really liked the idea of the naughty step. It’s always kind of seemed to me like banishing a child for having emotions. Sometimes, though, removal from a situation isn’t a bad lesson to learn; in the adult world certain behaviours will actually get you banished from places. Some behaviours will get you segregated from the rest of the world for a long time, some will just get you chucked out of the pub. Either way, banishment is a real consequence for real actions in the real world. Probably a bit harsh for a 3-year-old, though, at least in its purest form.

Time out is different. Time out offers everyone a chance to cool down and collect themselves. Time out allows the child to return once they feel they are ready (within reason). Time out is something that a lot of adults use, and a lot more adults should. Imagine how many incidents, arguments, and physical fist fights wouldn’t happen if everyone involved left the room and counted to 5?! I’m not saying I’ve found the answer to world peace, but it’s not a bad shout either way!

Gentle Parenting Calm Down

There has to be a distinction between behaviour and emotion, too. So a 2-year-old screaming blue murder and pounding the ground with their fists because they’re not allowed another biscuit is emotional, not misbehaving. A 4-year-old who knows it’s not ok to push their sibling to the ground but does it anyway is misbehaving because of an emotion. The 2-year-old hasn’t learned yet how to manage their feelings and display them appropriately, so the tantrum is an opportunity to learn, not punish. The 4-year-old knows what they did wasn’t ok, but at that point in time for whatever reason, lost control of their emotions. It happens.

Gentle Parenting Calm Down

Sometimes, in order to restrain myself from yelling, I need a time out. So I walk into another room. I usually put my head in my hands, and I might have a little “for fuck’s sake” under my breath. On a really bad day I go as far away as possible, shut as many doors as possible, and I scream it out! I’m pretty sure that rather than saying I’m misbehaving when I do that, most people would agree that actually I’m doing the right thing. So why is it different for kids?!

Gentle Parenting Calm Down

It’s perfectly acceptable to cry, even to have a scream and a shout. It’s our job to teach our kids when and where it’s acceptable to do those things, though. That’s where time out comes in. Time out is a positive tool for learning how to manage emotions, not a punishment.

“Right, that’s it. You’re on a time out! Go and sit in the time out area right now!”

“I think you need to take some time out to calm down and think about what’s making you feel like this. When you’re ready to talk, call me and I’ll come sit with you.”

Having an area to sit isn’t about creating a segregated place away from everyone else, but about knowing there’s a safe place to go and work through your emotions. Having an area also means you can make sure that there are some useful items there to help your kid calm down. Things like a book, some sensory items, maybe something to help them work out how they’re feeling like emotion cards.

Gentle Parenting Calm Down

This is something we have only just started doing at home, but from day 1 it has worked. I was told once that your first kid is like the trial one, and you always learn everything just a touch too late. But by the second one you’ve got a bit of a head’s up, and if you have any more after that you’re laughing! I wonder in 2 years time how starting this now will impact the way Wills handles his emotions. I’ll report back with a comparison if you can wait that long!

How do you handle emotions with your kids? I love hearing about everyone’s different approaches, after all none of us are perfect!

19 thoughts on “Gentle Parenting: The Calm Down Corner

  1. Absolutely LOVE this post – I’m awful with anger issues and quickly jump to shouting so it’s something I really have to work on. We use a timeout spot for her to sit and reflect (okay… cry!) to think about what she’s done and acknowledge that her behaviour wasn’t good. We only use it when she does something dangerous, doesn’t listen to instructions etc) After 2 minutes I tell her why she was put there and to say sorry. She then gets a hug. Thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofblog

  2. Great post. We are struggling over here. We have two fabulous girls, 6 (almost 7) and 9. They really are well behaved 98% of the time. But they both have this ‘thing’ about not listening to us until we raise our voices. It happens at dinner, bedtime, trying to get out the door. Ugh! I get infuriated. I give myself a time out, and often talk lower to make them lean in. Great post! xoxo

  3. This is a good take on it. We don’t call it the naughty step, but we do banish our four year old…it doesn’t go down well! I think I’ll try your gentler approach and see if we get somewhere that way!

    I always love your posts, you have this mama thing nailed!


    1. Oh god I really don’t! It’s a learning curve daily for sure, haha! It’s worth a try, I know I was really surprised by how much Amelia understood and engaged in talking about her feelings, and how much talking and breathing calmed her down! Good luck!xx

  4. I love this idea. My girls currently sit on a time out bucket in the corner but we need to talk more about how they feel and help them cool down more. #stayclassymama

  5. This is great – I love the ‘calm down corner’ and the signs about breathing etc – this is right up my street! For step 4 I would just say maybe we ‘listen’ as opposed to talk as my eldest who needs this stuff the most at the mo takes a long time to calm down after an incident and will scream and shout for a while and just isn’t in the zone for talking…. Love how your demonstrate how important language can be too and how we say things! Fab post! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. It takes everyone a while to get used to, but it wasn’t long before my 3-year-old was coming in and saying to me “Mum, I felt jealous. I don’t feel jealous anymore.” Yay!xx

  6. I love this post so much! We don’t have a specific area as such but we issue “time outs” which will mean the child moves to a corner of the room or onto the settee – just removing them from the incident to give them a chance to calm down. We also think it’s really important to find out why the child responded in that way and explain how they could have dealt with it better, rather than just shouting at them that they are naughty or bad #stayclassymama

    1. Yes that’s such a good point! I think in general adults have a tendency to underestimate kids, especially when it comes to what they understand. It frustrates me sometimes! Explaining things in clear terms is a great tip, and in my experience kids respond so well to being spoken to in that way xx

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