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Taking a Break:
A Technique for Addressing the Heart
The Scriptures emphasize that God’s primary interest is
the heart. The wise parent looks beyond behavior to what’s
going on at a deeper level. This involves the child’s attitudes
As you begin to use the secret of teaching children to
focus on their hearts, you will see them make attitude
adjustments, not just behavior changes. You will find yourself
getting to the root of disobedience or immaturity and helping
children make lifelong changes.
Taking a Break removes a child from a situation or activity
immediately following misbehavior. A reminder of the rule
may be helpful and the child is instructed to Take a Break
to change the heart. The location for Taking a Break is
a place away from any activity or stimulation. The child
shouldn’t talk to anyone until ready to return to the parent.
The parent also shouldn’t dialog with the child until the
child is ready to come back. Other benefits of family life
are suspended while the child is working on the heart.
Taking a Break allows the child, under the guidance of
the parent, to determine when to come back and talk about
the problem. When used correctly, Taking a Break can help
children look deeper than behavior and see the need to
allow God to work on their hearts.
Taking a Break is not the same as time out. Many Christians
have a hard time with time out, and for good reasons. Typically,
time out is a term used for isolating a child as a punishment
for doing wrong by simply sending that child away for a
set period of time. This is “punishment by isolation” and
can be counterproductive to the discipline process. Expecting
children to solve problems alone is unrealistic. Furthermore,
the isolation can appear to force children away from the
love of the parent. Taking a Break is a much more valuable
technique because, if done correctly, it focuses on the
The goal of Taking a Break is repentance. Taking a Break
teaches children a more accurate picture of reality. There
is a loving God who hates sin. When His children disobey
Him, they experience separation as a natural consequence
of disobedience. God lovingly waits for them to return
to Him with confession and repentance.
Taking a Break provides the motivation to repent by allowing
the child to experience the feeling of missing out on involvement
in family life. Parents can force a child to change actions
but they can’t force a change of heart. Parents can, however,
motivate children to change. Because separation can motivate
repentance, Taking a Break can be helpful as part of the
discipline process rather than being viewed simply as a
Through the principle of separation, children learn that
a person cannot enjoy the benefits of the family without
also abiding by the principles which make it work. Parents,
while communicating unconditional love, teach their children
that separation is the natural consequence of disobedience.
One important aspect of Taking a Break is that the child
helps determine the length of time spent in the break location.
Since repentance is the goal, it’s hard for a parent to
tell when a child is ready to return. To come back from
Taking a Break too soon may short-circuit what God wants
to do. To remain too long may cause unnecessary discouragement.
The wise parent will be able to discern from the child’s
face, posture, and tone of voice whether repentance has
taken place, or at least that the emotions have settled
down so the child can move on in the discipline process.
When Taking a Break the child stays in the break place
until he or she has calmed down and is ready to talk about
the problem. The child then initiates returning to the
parent for the Positive Conclusion, a discussion about
what went wrong and what should be done differently next
time. This is a primary difference between the Godly model
of Taking a Break and that which is often practiced in
time out. The length of time a child chooses for Taking
a Break isn’t important except as it relates to the child’s
needs. Frequently all that’s needed is a reminder and the
child is ready to change the heart and try again. In this
case, Taking a Break would be short, lasting only a few
seconds. Other times, because of stubbornness, a change
of heart may take longer, twenty minutes or several hours.
Either way, the child is encouraged to initiate when Taking
a Break is over.
Taking a Break Can Be Used In Your Family
From a very practical standpoint, Taking a Break can be
an excellent way to deal with much of the day-to-day correction
children need. It can become the primary discipline technique
used in a family to help children change. The three-year-old
who screams out of frustration, the seven-year-old who
continually interrupts, and the thirteen-year-old who teases
relentlessly all need to understand why their actions are
wrong and see the need to change the heart as well as their
habits of behavior.
At first, children may resist Taking a Break. Some may
not want to lengthen the discipline process; they’ll try
to get it over with too quickly. These children are especially
in danger of modifying behavior without repentance. It’s
important for children to learn how to Take a Break and
make sure their heart is responding properly before they
move to the solution.
Children may try to come out before they are ready or
they may defiantly move out of the place where they were
told to sit. The parent’s responsibility is to teach children
that they must obey. A parent may restrain a child by holding
them or by firmly returning the child to the correct spot.
These actions are best accomplished with as few words as
possible so as not to encourage the rebellion by giving
attention to it. The parent must win in these situations
in order to make Taking a Break an effective discipline
in the future.
Even children as young as three- or four-years-old, although
not able to understand the word “repentance,” can understand
having a soft heart or removing rebellion from the heart.
The first step of repentance is simply that the child settles
down, stops fighting, and is ready to work on the problem.
Older children are able to process some of what went wrong
and come back to the parent with a specific plan for what
to do right next time. In essence children can use Taking
a Break to settle down, realize they’ve done something
wrong and be willing to change.
Sometimes children, especially those who are just learning
to Take a Break, want to come back before they are ready,
or they choose to stay there longer than necessary. The
parent then must help these children to process their emotions
and learn to initiate the conclusion of the discipline
appropriately. In these cases it might be appropriate to
have a child sit in the break place for at least five minutes.
The emphasis on “at least” is important because it may
take longer than that. The child needs to evaluate his
or her readiness to return.
It is most beneficial to follow Taking a Break with a
Positive Conclusion, which not only helps to determine
genuine readiness to return but also helps the child process
the offense in a wise way. As you teach your children to
Take a Break and to understand repentance, you are giving
them a valuable gift that will last a lifetime.
This material is taken from the book, Home
Improvement, The Parenting Book You Can Read to Your
Kids. The book
contains many practical ideas for helping children change
their hearts, not just their behavior.