Timeouts 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 on the wall. To make a timeout a bit more positive, recommendations of hugging kids after or telling them something nice were added into the mix.
The problem with timeouts
Daniel Siegel, author of and clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explains that even when followed up with loving hugs and kind words, children still experience timeout as a rejection.
When you use a timeout 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.
We need to remember that little kids need help when they behave in unhelpful ways.
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 timeout. Timeout can also leave your toddler feeling upset, confused and anxious.
Here are three alternatives to try that promote learning and better behavior:
1. Time in
This is almost like a timeout, 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 altogether.
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 than a timeout 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.
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 what 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 series says it’s vital to take time for training and modeling. Investing time to teach your child what you expect, for example or how to 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.
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.
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.
Originally published by Ariadne Brill on positiveparentingconnection.net.