Inside: Looking for an alternative to time out? Learn how “time to yourself” can change your child’s way of thinking and stop negative behavior without punishments!
I don’t care how sweet your kids are…at some point they ALL misbehave.
So how do you stop the bad behavior effectively without yelling or losing your temper?
Because that doesn’t really work…and usually leaves you feeling pretty crappy too.
One of the more popular methods of disciplining children is “time out,” which involves sending a child who misbehaves to a designated location for a set amount of time as punishment.
While I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I have found an alternative to time out that has proven much more effective for us.
How “Time to Yourself” Works
Our alternative to punishments like time out is what I’ve dubbed “time to yourself.” Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
1. Stop Everything
Whatever we are doing, I stop immediately and we deal with the situation in that very moment. Whether we are at home or in public, I acknowledge the undesirable behavior NOW, rather than saying “we will deal with this later” or “we will talk about it when we get home.”
If you wait until later, your child has already moved on in their mind. I know that the situation will be most effectively handled if it is done in the present.
2. Get Their Attention
To do this, I talk in a low voice so my daughter has to get quiet to hear me.
I only raise my voice in what I would consider an emergency situation where I need instant action (for example, if she were about to run across a busy parking lot without looking).
Otherwise, I get down to her level so we have direct eye contact and speak in a calm, even, firm voice. She knows that I mean business.
Yelling or getting angry when not absolutely necessary can cause a child to recoil in fear and miss the message you’re trying to give.
3. Time to Yourself
Once I explain why the behavior in question is unacceptable, I remove her from the situation.
I’ll say something along the lines of, “I am going to let you have some time to yourself to think about your actions and make a choice if you would like to be around us.”
Why “Time to Yourself” is Different Than “Time Out”
“Time to yourself” is similar to “time out” in that it involves a child going to his or her room.
However, “time to yourself” is different from “time out” in that it is not presented as a punishment, but rather, a choice.
I explain to my daughter that she has two options:
- Find a more positive way to interact with us -OR-
- Have alone time in your room
With this alternative to traditional punishments, it is still very clear that a certain behavior or action was unacceptable. However, there is NO shaming and kids feel like they have some control over things.
Because when kids feel out of control, they tend to overreact to feel like they can control something – even if that something is getting themselves in more trouble.
You can see how that would be counterproductive!
I chose my girls’ room as the location for “time to yourself” because it is a safe place, where they won’t be on the defensive and can instead constructively work on a way to self-regulate.
This is not about shaming or humiliating for “bad behavior,” but rather removing the child from a negative situation and giving them the space and the tools to change their course of action.
There is no time requirement — I allow my daughters to take as much or as little time as needed. Sometimes they are ready to come out within just a few minutes.
On other occasions, my oldest especially, will spend thirty minutes to an hour in her room, resting or reading.
On those days, she obviously needed to recharge and not have to be around people for a while.
When she emerges, my daughter is calm, happy, and eager to please. Sometimes she has even made her bed or cleaned her room while she was in there, without being asked!
We parents start to get a little crazy when we don’t have “me time” for a while, so it makes sense that kids would too.
Kids are always surrounded by others, both at school and at home, to the point where it starts to get overwhelming for some. However, kids don’t always know how to vocalize their need for space.
While bad behavior itself isn’t acceptable, this could be your child’s way of showing you that they need a break from the stress of socialization.
Discipline can be a hot-button topic among parents, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every family.
However, this alternative to time out, or “time to yourself,” has been a very effective tool for helping my daughters to cope with stress and find positive ways to express themselves around others.
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- Stop feeling overwhelmed. Get a handle on the swirling chaos of to-do items and appointments and “should”s in your head.
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- Catch yourself before you lose your cool. Learn what to do when you lose your patience with a temper-taming toolkit of proven tools to get you back on track.
- Heal after the storm. For the days when you do lose your cool, you’ll get the exact steps to flush the bad mojo from your body and repair the relationship with your child (or your partner).
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