Are time-outs effective tools of discipline?

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a friend of mine, who has a four year old daughter. At the dinner time, the little girl got happily involved in making some random modern art out of her food, which also fuelled my son’s desire to be another Pablo Picasso.  However, what started as harmless fun filled activity soon turned out to be a cause of annoyance for my friend and she resorted to the much ‘’in-practice’’ and a popular discipline tool in schools these days, “Time-outs’’!

Time-outs are whereby a parent or a teacher or even a caregiver resorts to putting the child in isolation and helps in easing out the emotionally heated up situation. Although, they sound sensible at the surface, in terms of getting the child’s attention and handling the misbehaviour temporarily, yet it also instils the idea of what punishment is in the mind of a child. I will not say that it is not an effective discipline tool, but I personally don’t feel it can be ‘ a one size fits all’ discipline approach in the case of toddler discipline.

Let me rewind and go back to that day at my friend’s house, where the little girl was kept away in an isolated place as her punishment. The little girl turned into an emotional mess and she cried and cried, till her mother could take no more and had to help her calm down. My son gets time outs, but through that little girl, he understood the severity of it. He understood it can go from feeling not too bad to absolutely horrifying. He started crying on seeing her crying and we, jointly had a tough time, in pacifying the kids to resume to normal.

Basically, in an attempt to lessen emotional power struggles, my friend had ended up lengthening the emotional power play. The child had ended up feeling hurt, miserable about self and more over had very little emotional regulation at the time of crisis. So that’s when I seriously got into thinking if this popular discipline and punishment tool was effective in getting the behavior right. Should we be isolating a child, who is on the verge of an emotional meltdown or is already undergoing one?

Although, I’m no expert, yet that night, I could see the flip side of a time-out and hence resorted to a variety of online searches that told me ways to discipline a toddler, without resorting to time-outs. I haven’t tried them all, but some have been tried and they are reaping good results and my son gives in to my required expectation as well.

Let me share a couple of them with you, especially if you too are harrowed and are looking out for some other discipline tool other than Time-outs!

  1. Plan a logical sequence: – Observe the situations when your child behaves inappropriately and when you have to discipline him the most. Taking the situation into account, think of the most desired privilege for your child and try to remove it. For instance, if your child is running in the aisles of departmental store and knocking down the staples over the shelves, then instead of yelling or time-out (which I believe will only add to your woe in such a place), tell him strictly that you are not going to bring him to the store from next time or to his favourite restaurant.  And please stick to it. No matter what, don’t take him to the mentioned place and remind him about the reason the time you do it. This helps in keeping their misbehaviour in check and such actions help the child in reminding him of the results of his misbehaviours. Connecting actions to results helps the child learn about taking responsibility and keep the behavior in check.
  2. Rewarding good behavior:-Just like removing privileges work in cases of misbehaviour, rewarding kids for good behavior, like praise, will be equally fruitful. Kids remember the rewards and also associate the same with their actions. They often try to replicate the same, more frequently, in the attempt to get those rewards. Making a chart and putting star or a favourite emoticon also works wonders as the chart acts as reminders of all the rewards they received. This helps in boosting the feel-good factor in them and they tend to respond more appropriately in future. Sometimes, helping the kids choose their own good rewards from your options can also help them.
  3. Warning systems also act as deterrent: – Sometimes giving warnings before enforcing the action to the misbehaviour also acts perfect. Sometimes, I choose ‘magic 123’ game to set things straight like a messy toy room clean up. This works and often an emotionally charged ‘me’ gets some time to cool down. As for my son, this also works like a game and he too gets into the momentum and we both benefit.
  4. Redirect their energy into other areas: – It’s difficult for a child to think and behave well when he’s emotionally feeling horrible. At such a stage, a long lecture or a punishment, by way of time-out can end up adding more to a child’s misery. In such a case, redirecting that negative energy into something better can be good. For instance, allocating additional chores, especially the ones which he/she detests can also be a great idea. Tell your child to clean up, mop or sweep the floor, can be a great way to channelize that energy, while getting your message across. Plus the child also gets the idea that such an action was given only because he misbehaved.
  5. Monetary fine: – This has started working very well with my kid. Now for certain misbehaviours of my son, I take a small fine amount from him, by way of a coin from his piggy bank. Right from throwing things to failing to clean up, to shouting, every misdeed makes him put one coin from his piggy bank to my coin box. He loves his piggy bank and hates to part away with his accumulated wealth so often he ends up doing the needful.
  6. Time-ins:-This tool is getting more talked about these days. Although, I still haven’t got an expert to shed light on this theory, but I completely understand the need for a time-in. It allows the child to cool down, with love, support and proper guidance. In an emotionally turbulent situation, allowing the child to feel loved often drives the child to generate the good behavior. I’ll be honest here. Though, I’ve read and understood the tool, I still have to successfully fine tune my emotional state in emotionally heated situations to embrace and practice this approach on my child.

In an emotionally heated situation, the agenda should be to drive the child to feel well. Good behavior is generated only when the child feels well. Unless the child feels good, he won’t behave well. Hence, punishment should not be such that makes a child feel miserable to the tune of making him lose his sense of self. Emotional regulation, while helping the child curb the misbehaviour requires better discipline tools. Let me know what your take is on this subject and help me reason well!

Leave a Reply

Back to Top