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Long story short married for 3 years, daughter is currently 3, divorced for 1 year.

This year, for Father's day, my ex-wife let me spend the whole day with my daughter, which I was over the moon delighted to do. This was the first time I was able to get to spend an extended amount of time with my daughter alone since the divorce.

I noticed some odd behavior that I am not sure if I should be concerned about:

After getting my daughter ready for bed, we were watching TV, something happened - I am not sure what - but for some reason I had to be put in time out.

My daughter took my hand, led me to the bathroom, turned out the lights and closed the door. At first I thought it was cute. I turned the lights back on and she immediately opened the door, pointed at me, said something (I am really not sure what - incoherent broken sentences) - definitely a scolding, I'm sure - turned the lights back off and closed the door.

I waited for about 10 seconds, opened the door, picked her up, played with her for a minute and whatever I did wrong was forgotten.

My concern here, and do keep in mind I do not have a lot of children experience:

I kind of think of kids as monkey see monkey do at this age. Should I be worried my daughter is being locked in a dark room as a form of time out?

  • Could have been seen on some idiotic youtube video, something on TV, in a story. I spend most of my time with my girls and I am surprised quite a bit by the insane things they come up with from what seems to be non-parental sources. I don't know if I can advise on your situation per say, but my basic impressions is that it might be overreacting if one were to assume she is actually being detained in a dark room for time outs – Kai Qing Jun 19 '17 at 23:30
  • @KaiQing that should be an answer – Erik Jun 20 '17 at 6:55
  • Did your ex-wife ever do anything in the 2 years before your divorce that would make you suspicious that there might be something going on here or would make you concerned? If not, I'd say it sounds like boss/silly 3-year-old play. – Brusselssprout Jun 20 '17 at 10:06
  • Who exactly is your ex-wife to decide your access to YOUR child. Not really her decision. – Neil Meyer Jun 20 '17 at 12:56
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    "This was the first time I was able to get to spend an extended amount of time with my daughter alone since the divorce" - sorry, but that sounds insane. How can you possibly be a father to her if you get to spend a full day only once a year? Have you considered getting more time with her? – sleske May 22 '18 at 19:30
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Honestly I would be worried, too. Yes, kids repeat what they see. And they see a lot of things: parents, teachers, TV / YouTube, etc.
But ask yourself: have you ever seen a dark-room timeout in the kind of TV series or YouTube videos that kids her age watch? Probably not.

And it doesn't seem like your daugther was playing, either: she was serious about you having your timeout. She even got angry when you tried to get out. This kind of reinforcement is not "as seen on TV" either.

All of this leads me to believe that yes, she has been locked in a dark room for timeout at least once, either at home or at school.

How you confront the situation with your ex wife is a different matter, though.

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    In my perspective any concern raise with her mother; you are an equal gaurdian and as such, you have the right to ask. – DankyNanky May 25 '18 at 10:14
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One isolated incident from a child can indicate many things. The behavior could be a mixture of imitating time outs in general, coupled with being put to sleep in a dark room for example, and imitating the scolding she receives when she tries to leave time out. I also wouldn't rule out that there is something to be investigated.

I would recommend that you do some digging. Ask your child questions that aren't directly leading (my own child will agree to nearly anything an adult asks him directly even if it is absurd) but ask in round about fashion where she has seen timeouts, what she thinks timeouts are, etc. You will be surprised the answers you receive and the information your own child will offer if asked in a casual manner. You can then use that information to independently corroborate the information with others.

I would also discuss it with your ex. You don't mention the relationship you have but with the co-parenting tag I assume you are both making an effort to parent together. Your ex might be able to shed some light as to whether she has seen this behavior herself, whether she uses this as a form of punishment (which would be its own separate issue), or perhaps whether she knows where your daughter found this behavior (tv, etc.). You can also see if there are other care givers or individuals that she might have seen/obtained this behavior from and ask them about the incident as well. Gain as much information and perspective as you can.

My experience is that children will give you completely honest but not entirely accurate information. Their perspective is still one of few years and every event stands out as monumental. Gaining the full picture from an adult perspective can give you the insight you need as to whether there is inappropriate behavior going on at your exes or whether this is your child attempting to make sense of her own experiences and they simply got muddled when passed through a 3 year old's lens.

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As an addition to VerasVitas' great answer:

There is not enough information to know whether your wife really locked her in a dark room, but there is reason for concern.

One thing that stood out for me in your question was a side note:

[...] my ex-wife let me spend the whole day with my daughter [...] This was the first time I was able to get to spend an extended amount of time with my daughter alone since the divorce.

If I understand correctly, you have been separated for a year, and have never before had a full day with your daughter during that time?

I know this is not what you asked, but:

I sincerely believe you need much more time than that to fully live your role as the father.

I think your question illustrates this problem: You observe something that concerns you with your daughter, but with so little time with her so infrequently, you cannot get a good impression of her and her life, so you are left guessing based on fragmentary information.

If you were to see her regularly, at least a day or two every few weeks (ideally even more), I think you would have a much easier time judging how she feels and whether there is reason for concern (not to mention that you would probably greatly support her wellbeing in general).

At the risk of giving unasked advice: Please think about whether it would not be good to spend more time with your daughter. I realize this is not your decision to make alone, but if you decide to go that route, there is a lot of help available (including on this site), up to and including going to court if need be.


As an aside: The most consequent form of "more time with one's child" is probably shared parenting (disclaimer: I am a supporter). One often cited benefit of shared parenting is that it protects the child from any possible deficits on the part of one parent, as there is always the other parent to watch out for the child, too. This would seem to apply here.

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