Creative Child

3 Alternatives to Time-Out That Work!

by Rebecca Eanes

Time-out is a popular discipline method aimed at getting children to sit in a chair and “think about what they've done,” which would work great if children were actually sitting in the chair pondering their behavior. Most likely, though, they are thinking things like, “when is this going to be over?” or “mommy is so mean” or “I want up. I want up. I want up!”

The problem with time-out is that we are assuming that young children have the fully developed brains of an adult and are capable of sitting to thoughtfully ponder their wrongdoings when, in fact, this executive function just hasn't developed well enough yet. Older children are better suited for such reflection, but still there is a gap in education when time-out alone is used. The child may well learn what is not acceptable, but that is only half of what he needs to know. A parent's job is to teach what is acceptable, how he can better manage himself, and how he can right his wrongs. Time-out fails to teach him how to do better.

Here are 3 Effective Alternatives to Time-Out

1. Time-in is a great alternative to time-out for toddlers and preschoolers. During a time-in, the child is invited to sit in close proximity to the parent or caregiver and is guided in calming down their brains and bodies so they can absorb the lesson. This teaches an important life skill – the ability to self-regulate. Calming techniques can include reading a book, drawing, or just talking with a calm parent. Once the child is calm, the brain is ready to learn, and the lesson can be taught. At this point, explain what the child did wrong, why it was wrong, and how to do better the next time such a situation arises.

Some people mistake time-ins as being a reward for bad behavior, but they're not. Time-in takes a lot more time and patience than a 2 or 3 minute time-out, but it's more effective in the long-term. Rather than being left alone to deal with their emotions, they are being taught how to work through them, and rather than being left to think about what they might do better, they are being taught what they can do better.

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