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Why Time Outs Don’t Work + 3 Alternatives

Written By:

Maryam Salassi

Sep 16, 2019

Hi friends! I’m so excited to share this series on positive discipline my friend Kim will be sharing on the blog! You can read the rest of her posts here. She’s a fabulous makeup artist and a preschool teacher turned parenting coach who really believes that tiny humans have voices that need to be heard. I highly recommend getting to know her if you don’t already!

Well, it happened again. Your two-and-a-half-year-old smacked you in the face for the fifth time today.

You are at your wit’s end. You have tried time out and taking toys away. You even tried hitting them back. No shame! I know it wasn’t hard, you’re just trying to show them how it hurts right?

But none of it worked!

And here is why.

When children misbehave, they are trying to communicate something to us that they do not yet have the words for! They have only lived on this earth for a very short time and their little bodies are full of BIG emotions.

So, when something doesn’t go their way they often resort to hitting, kicking, and biting. Especially two to three-year olds.

This is so normal. You kid is not aggressive or atypical if this is what they’re doing. By punishing them with time outs for
behaving in a natural way, you are communicating that they are bad instead of supporting them where they are and modifying their future reactions.

So, without further ado, here are three alternatives to time outs!

1. Label your child’s emotions

Not all “bad behavior” needs a consequence or punishment. I know that is hard to grasp. You want to modify their negative behavior and you always thought that punishment was the way to do it.

But it’s not.

Children (and all humans, really) thrive in loving, compassionate environments.

So, instead of immediately blowing your lid, help your child choose a better way by labeling what they are feeling.

“You are trying to stack these blocks, but they keep falling down. That is so frustrating. Would you like help?”

You are giving them the words they don’t yet have to communicate their emotions.

Now here is the tricky part: DO NOT HELP UNTIL THEY ASK FOR IT.

Because we also want them to learn to verbalize their needs to further improve their communication skills.

2. Take a break.

This is the positive spin on time outs. 

And let’s be honest, the break is way more often for us than it is for the child. But we cannot respond well to them if we are seeing red. Nor can they if they’re in the same situation.

As calmly as you can, share your own emotions, “I am feeling really frustrated and I need to take a break. I am going to be alone on the couch while you take a break in your bed to rest your body.”

Or if your child needs a choice, “I am feeling really frustrated and I need to take a break. Do you want to hang out on the couch or the bed?”

Not only are you getting the separation you need for the moment, but you are modeling healthy ways to handle your own emotions.

Breaks often result in a happy adult and child who are both better able to communicate afterwards.

3. Natural consequences

I absolutely believe that bad choices often result in a consequence, but the punishment must fit the crime.

For example, if a child is throwing a ball inside when they know it’s not allowed, the natural consequence is to take the ball away and redirect them to a different activity.

This results in a better understand and appropriate behavior modification.

Bonus: compassion and empathy are the keys!

To truly connect and support your child to grow and evolve into a healthy, happy and productive member of society, you must approach discipline with compassion and empathy.

This is the belief system that all children are good and deserve guidance to become their best selves, not punishment.

Here’s the best part: when you approach situations calmly in a compassionate and empathetic way, you too will feel better. You heart rate stays lower, you are better able to communicate, and thus facilitate a happier relationship with your child.

It’s amazing what just approaching the situation slowly and quietly will do.

Now put it into actions and let me know how it goes by posting to social media and tagging me!

Have more specific questions? Let’s chat via email at!

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