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5 Alternatives to Time-Out that Really Work

Childhood is all about learning. Children learn how to communicate with others, cope with situations, and behave in various circumstances. Within the educational process of life, little humans make mistakes – just like their older counterparts. When a mistake is made, parents often choose to punish by giving time-outs, as children should feel ashamed when they make an error, right? Not exactly. Parents, as a collective, must move away from the idea that children should be afraid of adults and punished for wrongdoings. Instead, we should teach children that they should be respectful adults and properly disciplined.

The “time-out” punishment is meant to shame a child, making them to sit alone in a corner and feel guilty. At such a young age, children are not yet introspective – they can’t reflect on what they’ve done. It’s the parent’s job to teach them wrong from right… but how can we teach little ones if we make them sit alone in a corner? Rather than punishing children, we should be enlightening them. There are many peaceful and educational alternatives to punishment.

  1. Sometimes, you must let your child make a mistake for a true learning moment. Parents often don’t want to hear this, but time-outs are highly overused. Not every poor choice deserves severe punishment. For example, if the child refuses to wear gloves when playing out in the snow, it isn’t going to endanger anyone – it’s simply a poor decision. If it becomes too much of a fight, try letting them make the mistake and learn for themselves. When cold fingers are the consequence, your little one will realize that the correct action was to wear gloves.

  2. Depending on the behavior, offer an alternative action that is more acceptable. At times, children don’t understand exactly what they are doing wrong because no alternative is offered. If your child colors with crayons on the walls, take a breath. How would a child know that only some surfaces are okay to color? Instead of throwing the little one into time-out, explain that walls shouldn’t be colored on, and that crayons are for paper instead. Teach your child how to clean up his or her mess. Then, once the wall is clean, give a piece of paper and provide another chance to try again.

  3. Talk it out. The world is a scary place, and young minds are full of swirling emotions. When a child has a temper tantrum, it’s often the result of an emotional reaction because they are truly sad, angry, or fearful. Validate your child’s feelings by asking questions. Inspire exploration into why he or she reacted in such an extreme manner. When you receive your answer, explain why this behavior should be avoided and offer a solution. Children should be able to talk to their parents about how they are feeling.

  4. Have a designated “calm down” area. If a child is very upset and can’t calm down, send them to sit in a relaxing area for meditation and breathing control. Differently than a time-out, this isn’t used as a punishment, but as an opportunity to control emotions. Once the child has relaxed, you should join him or her and acknowledge the problem.

  5. Remember to reinforce positive behaviors. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Just as you must discipline negative behaviors, you also must praise positive behaviors. For example, if you refuse to purchase a candy bar for your child, truly listen to his or her response. If your little one accepts your refusal, remember to praise these fantastic listening skills.

Time-outs are punishment. Instead, opt for discipline – empathize, offer solutions, and teach. The most crucial trait required as a parent is patience. Be patient with your little ones – they are still learning and exploring through the complicated world.

Gozde Gokozan, MS,MA

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