Welcome to the final installment of the Alternatives to Time Out Series! I hope that you’ve been having some success using Redirection as well as Natural and Logical Consequences. To wrap up, I’ll leave you with two more great tools: Time In and Positive Time Out.
Time In is pretty much the opposite of Time Out. It means time together, or bringing a child who needs attention closer rather than sending her away.
So, how does it work?
Time In is really useful when a child’s challenging behavior is due to wanting your attention or having a simple lack of direction.
Say your preschooler wants you to play with him while you’re prepping dinner and he’s using undesirable tactics to get your attention. Time In could be the answer!
Let him know that you realize he’d like your attention and that he is welcome to join you in making dinner. Give him a simple task (peeling garlic or tearing up lettuce for example). Get him involved!
Not only will the challenging behavior stop, you’ll be teaching life skills and appropriate ways to get the attention he wants.
Time In can also be used to prevent challenging behaviors. Say your toddler gets into something every time you are changing the baby’s diaper. Since you can see this behavior coming, you can head it off at the pass by using Time In.
Invite your toddler to help you when it’s diaper changing time. Give her helpful tasks like fetching the wipes or keeping her baby brother busy by making silly faces – whatever little tasks you can think of.
Be sure to thank your child for her help when your through. Feeling good about being helpful will lead to more interest in helpful behaviors (and hopefully less interest in challenging ones) in the future.
The best part of using this tactic is that it gives kids a chance to get some positive attention. This can be a life changing experience for a child who is used to getting negative attention for their challenging behaviors.
Occasionally, I meet a child who, for whatever reason, defaults to button pushing, boundary stretching and rule breaking. In these situations, consequences and Time Outs often only make things worse. Breaking that cycle of negative attention is key here.
Time In provides that all important opportunity to help a child make a change for the better. Try it out next time you’re feeling like a broken record. Take a deep breath. Let go of the desire to punish. Give your child a chance to be helpful and see if some positive attention is just want he needed.
Positive Time Out
Now, you may be thinking, this all sounds great, but what about when I just can’t give that kind of attention? Or what if my child gets angry or sad? How do I handle the big feelings that can come up? What if nothing works?
There is a reason I saved Positive Time Out for last.
Things may not always go as you plan. Any attempt at guiding a child’s behavior can result in big feelings – and big, loud, tearful and even aggressive expressions of those feelings. Or, there may be times when nothing else works and you just can’t continue to let your child behave in the way that he is. Time for Positive Time Out!
Wait – Time Out? isn’t this a series about alternatives to Time Out?
Positive Time Out is like the “revamped” Time Out – and is a completely different tactic when it comes down to it. Where Time Out can leave kids feeling resentful, Positive Time Out leaves kids feeling good. Getting a child to take a Time Out can be a struggle – but I’ve had kids take a Positive Time Out by their own choice.
…positive time out can help children learn many important life skills, such as the importance of taking time to calm down until they can think more clearly and act more thoughtfully. ~PositiveDiscipline.com
The intention behind Positive Time Out is to give children time to calm down and feel better. Say your 4-year-old is upset because she asked to watch TV and you said “no.” She screams and stomps her foot and you can see that she’s ramping up to a full blown tantrum.
It’s important to remember that at this point, she may already be out of control of her emotions. Asking (or demanding) that she calm herself down will likely only escalate the situation.
Instead, suggest that she go cuddle up with her favorite teddy bear, or sit with you and read a story. Or, perhaps she needs to do something more physical, like squeezing or punching a pillow. You know your child best, and through some observation you’ll figure out what works to help your child calm down and gain control.
Putting Yourself on Positive Time Out
Yep – parents sometimes need a Time Out, too! Modeling a “cool off” period yourself is a great way to teach your kids how to deal with big emotions.
Say your 5-year-old is pushing your buttons and you feel like you just might lose it. Maybe you raise your voice or say something you wish you hadn’t. Time for a Positive Time Out of your own!
Say something like, “I’m feeling really frustrated right now. I need some time to cool off.” Then, let your child know what you’ll be doing to help you calm down.
Perhaps sit and read quietly for a few minutes, or even escape for a warm bath if possible. Not only will you come back calm, collected and ready to parent more effectively, you’ll have modeled the important skills of self control and healthy expression for your child.
Later, talk with your child about what happened. Let him know that we all have big feelings at times – and sometimes they get the best of us. Showing him how you deal with frustration is the best way to teach him how to deal with his own emotions.
Tips for Using Positive Time Out
Positive Time Out can be as complicated as setting up a designated space with comfy pillows and special toys or as simple as having a favorite soft blanket handy. Just follow these tips and remember that the intention is to help your child calm down and feel better.
- Positive Time Out works best when there is a little bit of preparation. Let your child know in advance that there is a special place or item for him to use when he has big feelings. Some kids may even wish to help you design a space or choose a soothing activity for Positive Time Out.
- If your child already has experience with traditional Time Out, you may want to call it something else completely like “Time to Cool Off”.
- Give your child the task of deciding when she’s ready to leave Positive Time Out if she’s able to do so. I’ve been surprised at how long kids choose to stay in Positive Time Out – often longer than I would have asked them to!
- Join your child in Positive Time Out if he would like you there for support.
- Be available for hugs, but give some space if asked.
- Just as with our other parenting tools, follow through gently but firmly, with compassion and respect.
5 Alternatives to Time Out
There you have it – our series is complete! Check out the summary below as a quick reminder of what we’ve learned.
- Time Out is not an effective discipline strategy because it does not teach long term skills and leaves children feeling resentful.
- When kids experience Natural Consequences they learn first hand that they are responsible for the outcome of their actions.
- Redirection (not to be confused with Distraction) honors the child’s positive intention. Offering children a safe way to express their ideas teaches problem solving.
- Logical Consequences are directly related to a child’s behavior. When delivered in a respectful manner, Logical Consequences are a very effective discipline strategy.
- Use Time In by giving your child helpful tasks – this will help to reduce challenging behaviors.
- Provide a safe and comforting space or item to help your child calm down and gain control in Positive Time Out when necessary.
These 5 strategies work in a wide range of situations. Having a pocket full of ideas to deal with challenging behaviors will ensure that you can find the best strategy for any given situation.
Above all, remember to use these strategies with respect and follow through kindly and firmly. If you have any questions let me know! I’d love to hear from you!