Time-outs can often be the go-to method for disciplining children, but are they really as effective as we think they are? Children who are sent to a time-out are not likely using the time to think about their actions, they are usually more focused on how upset they are for being sent to time-out in the first place. If used correctly, time-outs can be an effective approach when a child needs help solving a problem, calming down or dealing with strong emotions. Here are some additional strategies for discipline:
- Practice Positive Guidance– when setting an expectation for children it’s important to emphasize what the child CAN do vs. what the child cannot do. Instead of saying, “Don’t run inside” try saying, “You may walk inside and run outside.”
- Offer Choices– giving children a choice on how they want to accomplish a task doesn’t necessarily alter the end result. If you want a child to help pick up their toys, give them the option of how they want to go about it. Do they want to pick up all of the toys with the color blue first? Or start with the cars and then move to the blocks? When children feel they have some control they are less likely to demonstrate challenging behaviors.
- Use Logical Consequences– help children make the connection between their behavior and how that will impact themselves and others. For example, if a child is playing at the table and knocks over their plate of food or cup of milk, they would be responsible for cleaning up the spilled food or milk.
- Learn to Ignore– often children exhibit behaviors (whether good or bad) because they are looking for attention from adults. If a child is acting out, assuming they are not doing something that would potentially harm themselves or others, try ignoring the behavior. This will communicate that undesirable behavior will not earn attention.
No matter what method of discipline you decide to use, it’s important to validate and empathize with the child’s feelings. Doing this will help children develop the skills to recognize and regulate their emotions. Adults should also remember to model the behavior you want your child to follow!