Five Alternatives To Time Out

I know what you might be thinking. Some people say, “Time out is working just fine for us!” As a parent of a three-year-old and a six-year-old, sometimes I even use it in my house. But there are times where a time out really doesn’t function for anything but a time to separate your child from other people.

At times, a timeout can communicate “I don’t want to be with you unless you act a certain way” and often, a timeout doesn’t get to the root of the behavior you’re trying to stop. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself putting your child in timeout for the same thing over and over with little to no results. So, to get to the bottom of the behavior and possibly even change, here are a few different ways that you can try a new approach:

1. Redirect Them.

Most of you have probably heard of this one before, but the idea is that if your toddler or child is throwing a fit about something that they can’t have, redirect them to something that will pique their interest. This is also a version of the pick your battles scenario. This especially works for younger children.

2. Be a detective.

Children are still learning to manage their emotions, and sometimes they need help from us to identify what they’re feeling. Could there be a reason that your child is acting the way they are? Often, when children are sleepy, hungry, or frustrated, they have a difficult time regulating themselves and will often react and emotional ways. By looking past the behavior and seeing our child as a person who has emotional needs, we can better resolve the situation. Putting them in timeout won’t help them regulate themselves emotionally, so if we are with them in the moment and reflect what they are feeling, we can be a powerful tool to helping children to regulate themselves.

3. Have a “time in.”

Get on your child’s level, both physically and emotionally. Try to get them to make eye contact with you and say something like “I know you’re feeling frustrated right now. Sometimes I get frustrated too. But, it’s not OK to hit. Can we talk about what you want? Maybe I can help you.”

4. Offer them a redo.

Man, this is something I wish we all had as parents and adults, right? The chance to redo your action in the correct way shows grace and gives children the opportunity to learn how to behave correctly. If we don’t show them and give them a chance to behave the way we want them to, children are unlikely to change.

5. Catch them being good.

I often tell parents who come into my office that it’s really easy for us to catch children being bad. It’s like we have an alert system and know exactly when they are doing something wrong. Think about your interaction with adults as a child, or even adults in your adulthood. If someone is always pointing out what you were doing wrong, how do you feel? It can become easy to feel discouraged whenever someone only recognizes when you do something wrong. Therefore, it is crucial that we also catch our child being good. Praise is more powerful than punishment! A fun idea is to have a sticker chart or even a jar with marbles. Put a marble in the jar or a sticker on the chart each time you catch your child being good. This will reinforce the good behavior, which is way more powerful than punishing the bad behavior. Our children desire our praise, and will pretty much do anything to receive it.

Is there something you’ve had success with that isn’t on this list? Share in the comments!

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