Then I saw it.
It read something along the lines of, “There is no research that supports the effectiveness of timeouts.”
Huh? I thought.
I had taken Developmental Psych; I had watched countless reality TV shows about parenting. Okay, maybe the latter isn’t the best resource out there. But still, I had no clue timeouts were a no-no.
I did a little more reading and found other resources confirming my first. So I parented on, sans timeouts. The issue? Without this tactic in my arsenal, I eventually felt a bit handcuffed.
It took a bit of brainstorming, but I now have some pretty solid alternatives to timeouts that still are disciplinary.
Before enacting them, I really recommend figuring out the family rules. The essence of ours is as follows: gentle touches, use your words, do good listening, and use a nice voice. When these rules are broken, my first course of action is to acknowledge what has happened and give a warning. For instance, “Either you use nice words or you will lose a sticker.” Sometimes, it is evident; my kids are simply dealing with big emotions and need empathy and someone to coach them through what is going on. However, there are times where the issue goes beyond a bit of understanding. And that is when I go to my alternatives to timeout.
1. Get present and unplug: This one may seem like a funny alternative to timeout because it’s about the adult and not the kid. That said, I would venture to guess about half the time my two little ones are fighting it is when I’m preoccupied. Now, I am by no means saying be at their beck and call. But, if my kids have stopped listening and are acting out, this is my first go-to.
2. Talk it out: Empathy can really be the key to good choices. If a child is overwhelmed, tired, over stimulated, hungry – or a combination of all of the above – they typically just need an adult to step in and navigate their upset for them. When the above two steps are ineffective, I move to a more authoritative course of action.
3. Choose natural or logical consequences: A natural consequence is something that results from making a bad choice. For example, if my two-year-old refuses to wear a jacket when it’s freezing outside, I would ask him to step outside without one. He then decides to put on his jacket. Logical consequences are essentially punishments that fit the crime. So, if my daughter throws her doll across the room, she loses the privilege of playing with her doll.
4. Use a calm down corner: It really is a simple as a blanket, some pillows, stuffed animals, and maybe some sensory materials. But a calm down corner is a really nice alternative to timeouts, because it gives my children a break from the situation where they are worked up without ostracizing them. I often join my children in the calm down corner, hug them and talk about what they’re experiencing. Their readiness to come out is demonstrated by their expression of calmness.
5. Coach them to show thoughtfulness: Once my kids have calmed down, I ask them to think of something nice to do for the person they’ve upset. It actually serves as a really nice switch from an act of frustration, to suggesting acts of kindness. Typically, my two kids offer each other the use of their toys, and play resumes in a more collaborative way.
Timeout alternatives that work for your family may take a bit of trial and error. Having several different ideas for when the going gets tough can make a world of difference!
When Alana Pace found out she was pregnant with her second child only six months after having her first, she knew she had to get creative fast. Fortunately, spending so much of her childhood outdoors with a mother who specialized in Early Childhood Education, learning through play is almost instinctive. Each morning with her kids marks a new opportunity to explore and seize the day! On her blog, she writes about her family’s experiences, positive parenting strategies, play-based learning ideas and more. Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay connected.