Cooperation Begins with Trust

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Why Timeouts Make Tantrums And Power Struggles Worse (And What To Do Instead)

Why Timeouts Make Tantrums And Power Struggles Worse (And What To Do Instead)

A parent wrote in recently asking why timeouts are making her daughters behavior worse instead of better. She shares:

I have a 3 year old daughter that throws the biggest tantrums whenever i simply say no or disagree with her. She has picked up negative behaviors to calm herself. Such as slamming doors and using aggression. I’ve been trying to get to her stop via time outs which leads her to crying so much they never actually start. Talking or taking away privileges, being strict…it only makes it worse. I’m wondering if im missing something she cant express.  Any advice? 

Time outs used to be highly recommended for the toddler years as a way to discipline bad behavior. Placing a toddler in the corner or on a chair and letting them reflect on their behavior was thought to help them stop behaviors like hitting, crying, whining and throwing mashed peas onto the wall. To make timeout a bit more positive, recommendations of hugging kids after time out or telling them something nice were added into the mix.

The emotional rejection that is part of timeouts

Author of No Drama Discipline and clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Daniel Siegel explains that even when followed up with loving hugs and kind words, children still experience time out as a rejection.

When you use time out because your child has made a mistake or is feeling emotionally overwhelmed, Siegel explains that essentially the message your child gets is that you will force them to handle any difficult feelings and mistakes on their own.

Little kids need help when they behave in unhelpful ways.

timeouts for toddlers alternatives that work

Placing a toddler in the corner or on a naughty chair is unlikely to prevent misbehavior from showing up again.  In fact, your toddler is more likely to repeat a misbehavior after time out. Time out can also leave your toddler feeling upset, confused and anxious.

Three Alternatives to Timeouts that Promote Learning and Better Behavior

1. Time In: This is almost like a time out, with one important change. You stay with your child in time in and support them until they have calmed down.

A time in can be customized to your child’s temperament and your needs, where you can sit together on the couch, simply take a moment to hug and talk or walk away from a difficult situation to a different place all together.

The goal of a time in is to help your child feel safe, calm and ready to listen to your guidance.  A time in may take longer then a time out but is much more likely to help your child feel truly ready to choose a better, more helpful behavior. If you were having a power struggle or argument, a time in is a way to reset everyone’s mood so you can start your discussion over in a calm way.

timeouts alternatives for child

2. Take time to Teach: Young children often choose behaviors that are unwanted because they don’t know yet what you expect or what is acceptable.

It’s important to take time to show your child was they CAN do, instead of only stopping them when they are doing something wrong. Let’s say your toddler is hitting the dog. Getting down to your toddler’s level and demonstrating how to properly pet and brush the dog gives your toddler important information to develop a new skill.  It’s not enough to just say “don’t hit the dog”.

Jane Nelsen D. Ed., author of the Positive Discipline series says it’s vital to take time for training and modeling.

Investing time to teach your child what you expect, for example how to calm down or how to politely disagree with you takes an initial time investment.

Here is some good news:

Any time you invest into teaching skills will help your child better handle the many challenges they will face as they grow.

alternative to timeouts

3. Second Chances: A little “do over” is a great way to give your child an opportunity to stop any unhelpful behavior and start over with a better choice. Second chances work very well when you take the time to first stop the unhelpful behavior and only then ask your child to try again.

If your child isn’t sure what a better choice is, take time to teach first. If your child is too overwhelmed or upset, start with time in, then take time to teach and lastly follow up with a second chance to start over.

Your effectiveness as parents is in direct proportion to the strength of the bond you have with your child. – Pam Leo

positive alternatives to time out to help with toddler discipline and behavior

Learning focused and positive strategies are not rewards for misbehavior.

These alternatives to timeouts allow you to build a very important special bond with your child. When you pause and help your child feel better you show your child they can trust you when they need you most.

Children don’t want to behave badly or upset you. In fact the more connected your child feels to you, the more likely they are to accept your guidance and coaching towards better behavior.

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

How to Reduce Attention Seeking Behavior In a Positive Way

How to Reduce Attention Seeking Behavior In a Positive Way

Why Choosing Positive Guidance over Punishment Helps Reduce Attention Seeking and Other Unhelpful Behaviors Children often seek attention in mistaken ways. When you offer guidance, you can help your child feel connected, understood and ready to make better choices. As children grow they become very skilled at figuring out really clever ways to get adults… Continue Reading

How To Discipline A Child That Breaks The Rules And Doesn’t Listen

How To Discipline A Child That Breaks The Rules And Doesn’t Listen

You broke your own rule mama! You used the car as a closet!  Said my daughter beyond excited to have noticed my forgotten coat, wrinkled and abandoned in the freezing cold car.You are right. And I am so glad you noticed and told me. I offered with a smile. I will be sure to take it inside… Continue Reading

Children Are Wired For Empathy And Insisting On Apologies Is Not Necessary

Children Are Wired For Empathy And Insisting On Apologies Is Not Necessary

Knowing how to make amends is a very valuable life skill.  As children grow they have many opportunities to apologize and make amends. While we would like children to know how to say “I am sorry”, often children will apologize in their own way. Children are Wired for Empathy Children are born with the capacity for… Continue Reading

How To Help Siblings Stop Fighting and Start Getting Along

How To Help Siblings Stop Fighting and Start Getting Along

“You are being mean!” said my son. His face filled with disappointment. “I’m never sharing my truck with you ever again.” He added, walking away with a deep sigh. I had been listening to my son and daughter. It was a small conflict, yet big feelings were involved.   They were struggling to play together.… Continue Reading

Avoid Power Struggles using this Problem Solving Script

Avoid Power Struggles using this Problem Solving Script

The bathroom is getting steamy. The water has been flowing for minutes, and your child is still fully clothed, refusing to budge. Every night it’s the same battle. You say that he needs to shower. He refuses to shower. A power struggle begins. Some nights, you try to wrestle him out of his clothes. Other… Continue Reading

Three Tips For Getting Kids Ready and Out the Door Struggle Free

Three Tips For Getting Kids Ready and Out the Door Struggle Free

Do mornings at your house look like a scene from a stressful Groundhog’s day video?  The same level of stress, the same rushing, and the same power struggles with your children day in and day out?  If it does, you are not alone!  One of the biggest challenges modern families seems to face is getting… Continue Reading

Four Tips Backed By Positive Discipline That Will Make Your Kids Routine Charts Actually Work

Four Tips Backed By Positive Discipline That Will Make Your Kids Routine Charts Actually Work

Over the summer, my 9 year old daughter began having trouble falling asleep. “I just can’t sleep!!” she whined (and she really meant it.) After several weeks of trying to talk her out of her insomnia, I decided a new bedtime routine was in order. We brainstormed the steps, and decided to include a short… Continue Reading

How to Help Your Child With After School Meltdowns

How to Help Your Child With After School Meltdowns

After school meltdowns are quite normal for children from preschool to middle school. Here is what you need to know to handle these after school meltdowns and help your child feel better again. Children can experience quite the emotional ups and downs while away from you.  Maybe a  classmate didn’t want to share a toy,  an… Continue Reading

Encouraging Better Behavior When Your Child Acts Out

Encouraging Better Behavior When Your Child Acts Out

How to help a child who is acting out by setting clear, kind limits and offering positive guidance.  Walking out of school, I noticed my son had an envelope in his hand. As he handed it to me with a shy but determined smile he said: “Mom, this is for you. I wrote you an an… Continue Reading

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