Are you looking for an alternative to timeout for discipline? Maybe you are worried about encouraging your child’s unacceptable behavior or possibly your child simply doesn’t stay in timeout.
Have no fear. Here’s why you don’t need timeouts anymore and what to do instead.
“No, stop throwing your toys at your sister” I yelled at my two-year-old son.
He looked back at me, picked up his blue hot wheels and chucked it as his sister’s head.
“That’s it! Time out!”
“NOOOO!!! He screamed as I picked him up, lugged him to the corner of our dining room and set the timer for 2 minutes.
The problem was… he didn’t stay in time out.
I had to sit directly in front of him and block his access to the rest of the house.
Then he would climb up on my lap and cuddle for his two-minutes of “time-out”.
Why won’t he stay in time out? This worked for my daughter…why doesn’t it work for him?
Two years ago, I thought that somehow, I failed as a parent with my second. That I’d grown too soft or that I favored him more.
But then,I started thinking. Did he stop throwing toy cars at his sister after his 2-minute cuddle?
Maybe…I don’t need to use time outs to be an effective parent. It may even be a better parenting strategy to ban this practice altogether.
What is time out?
Time out is a social seperation from the rest of the family.
Parenting with Love and Logic suggests an uh-oh song that parents can sing as they enforce time out so that they do it in a manner free from threats or showing anger.
But, it’s still time out.
As far as discipline goes, what do kids think when they’re sitting in the corner?
Do they think, “Oh yes, mom is right. I should stop throwing my Hot Wheels at my sister?”
Or, more likely, “Mom doesn’t understand me. I’ll throw toys when she isn’t looking”
….or even worse (and I can say this is how I felt as a child) “My parents are right. I am a bad person. Only bad people throw toys.”
Time out kind-of sucks.
Sure, it may help the behavior temporarily, but over the long haul, it does nothing to help kids deal with their emotions.
According to the book “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk”, kids need “private time with a caring adult who will help them deal with feelings and figure out better ways to handle them.”
Let’s give that time in a way that encourages acceptable behavior. Here are a few positive parenting tips free from time out.
Alternative to Timeout for Discipline Tips
1. Name the feeling
Children usually act out for very specific reasons. They can be tired, hungry, insecure, angry or simply stressed. When your child throws a tantrum – or a plate across the room – guess the underlying feeling that caused him to do that and tell him.
“You feel unhappy because I won’t let you have cheese crackers before dinner. You REALLY want the cheese crackers, but we don’t yell and scream to get what we want.
“No. It’s dangerous to throw toys. You feel mad because your sister won’t play with you”
The point of naming the emotions is to guide your child into handling his emotions in a positive way.
2. Put yourself in timeout
I admit, I’ve used timeout out of anger.
When my son or daughter frustrated me past my limits, I sent them to the corner because I couldn’t deal with it any longer.
When I feel like I’m about to explode – and their behavior isn’t anything dangerous – I go and lock myself in the bathroom, sit and breathe for a bit.
I tell them I’m mad and I need to take a break.
This means I don’t yell at my kids and has the added bonus of my kids seeing me take care of my own mental stae.
3. Teach kids how to calm themselves down
After they’ve seen you retire to another room to calm down, you can start suggesting they do the same.
I used to feel bad about my son retreating to the guest room anytime he wanted to scream and have a tantrum, but now I realize that we’ve taught him a valuable coping skill.
You see, he used to scream and cry at the most ridiculous things.
(Yes, some things are ridiculous and you don’t need to acknowledge their feelings about it.)
Let me give you an example.
My son came home from school and wanted a snack. I told him he could have applesauce, peanut butter crackers or a banana.
His reaction: He cried and screamed because he wanted none of those things.
Is that ok? No way.
So, I said to him very calmly, “You have choices on what to eat. Your crying and screaming is hurting my ears. Please go to the guest room and calm down.”
At first, we took him there – screaming and kicking – and closed the door.
He opened the door seconds later still screaming.
So, I carried him in again and closed the door.
Finally, he walked out calm.
Now, he uses that tactic anytime he gets overly upset.
For instance, just today, he started crying about having to unload the dishwasher – yes, again, It’s an ongoing drama.
He took himself to the guest room and five minutes later appeared at my side ready to put away silverware.
4. Hold them
Sometimes, tantrums are a cry out for attention. Often, our child throws a fit when we are busy, stressed and running around like mad.
That’s not a coincidence.
If you feel stressed, your child probably feels stressed too.
That’s when I get down on the floor and hold them. I don’t say anything. I just hug them, breathe and try to calm myself down as well.
Usually, after a child calms down, she can better tell you how she’s feeling and what she exactly wants.
5. Make a list of ways to act instead
Once your child is calm, brainstorm with her a list of ways she can deal with the situation instead of lashing out, throwing toys or having a tantrum.
For instance, if my daughter is mad that her brother keeps screaming at her. Instead of hitting him, she can:
- Tell him to STOP
- Go into her room and shut the door
- Ask him why he is screaming
- Ignore him
- If none of these work, go to Mom or Dad for help.
Now, instead of feeling helpless in the situation, she feels empowered and knows the options she can employ instead of hitting.
Timeout wouldn’t teach her any of these strategies for dealing with difficult people.
As a bonus, this alternative to timeout also decreases tattling.
In short, positive discipline is meant to guide kids to develop internal self-control and self-direction. When you use these alternatives to timeout, you teach your child essential life skills.
Parenting is a tough gig where you’ll not know the effects of your actions until 10-20 years from now. It’s ok to feel unsure.
We just do what we can with what we know.
You’re doing a great job mama.
For more help with tantrums and defiant behavior, I recommend: