10 Alternatives When Time Out Doesn’t Work


Frustrated? Here’s 10 alternatives to time out when time out doesn’t work

As children grow and develop through the 5 domains (Social, Physical, Communicative, Adaptive and Cognitive) they master new milestones. With each stage, children are faced with challenges for the first time in their life. When these challenges are presented to children, the majority of the time they do not know how to deal with them.

The frustration that can happen when dealing with an unfamiliar problem, and being told “No” or that they cannot do something that they want to do, may cause them to act out – yelling, screaming, hitting, pushing, talking back, and throwing a temper tantrum. Most people use a time out to calm everyone down.

But what do you do when a time out doesn’t work?

This is a big controversial question to many people. Spanking your child, sending them to their room, putting them in the corner, and yelling at them are negative reinforcement techniques. If you believe in them, and they work for you, then continue to follow through with it. If they are not working for you, or you are interested in more positive reinforcement parenting, then here’s 10 alternatives to time out:

Time In

Sit with your child and engage in an activity. Your child is getting attention from you, which is probably the biggest reason for their upset. But this will also allow you to demonstrate how you want the child to act.

Wait 5 Seconds

Give your child an instruction and then wait. If she complies, then praise her. If she does not comply, repeat the instruction and wait 5 seconds again.  If the child still does not comply, then give a logical consequence. If she does listen, then praise her.

Provide 2 Choices

“You can clean up your toys in 2 minutes, or you can clean up your toys now.” Sometimes making them a part of the decision helps a lot.

Set Ground Rules

Ensure children are clear about expectations. Allow them to make up the rules with you, this way they will be more likely to remember and comply with them.

Set Up a Visual Schedule

For younger kids, this will allow them to understand through pictures and know what to expect next.

Consider the Expectations

Set expectations that children can attain; ensure they have the skill set to meet them. Otherwise, you are setting your child up to fail and they will be frustrated.

Problem Solve Collaboratively

Gather information from your child about the situation, and help them work through the feelings and the problems so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Focus on the positive and NOT the negative

An example would be: Don’t touch the hot stove, I told you not to touch it. Try this instead: See the hot stove; let me show you how it works and why we do not touch it when it is hot.

Be In Charge of Your Own Emotions

Especially when dealing with your child. Do not get angry; stop and breathe and tell yourself to be in charge of your emotions. Ask yourself: Do you want to me angry? Why are you angry?

Conflict is a Teachable Moment

When we associate non-compliance and disrespect, we form a link between children’s behaviour and your own capability.

Each child is unique and what works for my children may or may not work for your children.  But by trying different techniques, you will be able to determine what works best for your child and your family and will hopefully ease your own frustration.

 The most important thing to remember, however, is to follow through. If you tell your child to “stop throwing the ball in the house, or you will take the ball away,” you MUST follow through. If you do not, you are teaching your child that you are not in charge, they are.

Don’t worry. Your child will still love you. You still love your parents for teaching you about consequences, right?

Amy Gibson BCD, RECE

Written By: Amy Gibson BCD, RECE

Amy, having earned a Bachelors Degree in Child Development, has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for the past 10 years. First working in an infant classroom, and then moving to JK, preschool and toddlers. Currently Amy works as a Supervisor of a childcare facility in York Region.

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