No More Time Outs! Positive Discipline That Works

No More Time Outs! Positive Discipline That Works

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Updated on Sep 30, 2012

When it comes to disciplining young children, time out is out. Early childhood experts now say that time outs can actually lead to more behavior problems instead of less. Time outs don't teach children the skills for how to control their own behavior and resolve conflicts effectively. It's simply a form a punishment without a learning opportunity. The experts say this is one of the major problems with the old time out method.

“Time-out does not address the root causes of behavior problems and does not teach children useful conflict resolution skills,” says Aletha Solter, Ph.D., director of the Aware Parenting Institute. “Furthermore, children experience time-out as a form of punishment rather than a learning experience. Forced isolation can weaken the parent-child bond and cause children to feel anxious, insecure, and angry. These feelings can lead to more behavior problems later on, so the use of time-out is actually counter-productive. “

So what is a parent to do? How can you help your child manage your child's acting out without the use of time out? Try some of the suggestions below for a more positive method of discipline.

Behavior is Bad

  • By separating the bad behavior from the child himself, you allow them the opportunity to change it. Saying “you are a bad boy” is very different from “your behavior was bad”. If both the child and the parent recognize that the behavior is problematic and not the child, you'll be able to make it easier for him to identify what he did wrong for the future.
  • Let your child know that he can choose and change his behavior. Saying “you are a bad boy” is a direct attack on your child’s character and he may not feel he can change it. Instead, make it clear to him that he's in control of his actions, and that it's within his power to make the right decisions.

Feeling Words

  • Many young children simply do not have the vocabulary to express their feelings. Teach your child “feeling” words such as disappointed, angry, frustrated and lonely by using them in context when you are in situations in which you have those feelings. This will give him a good point of reference for his own feelings and better help him to identify them when he's in tough situations.
  • Ask your librarian to help you identify books that talk about feelings and read them to your child. Follow the story with a discussion of times when he may have felt the same feeling. Providing your child with examples of different kinds of feelings - good or bad - will help him to distinguish between his feelings and understand that others sometimes feel the same.

Focus on Solutions

  • Rather than asking why your child performed a behavior, focus on how he could resolve the issue next time. For example “why did you hit your brother?” may not get you very far. Instead ask, “What can you do instead of hitting if your brother takes your truck?”
  • Role playing solutions to problem behaviors helps children practice at a time when they are not angry. This will give him time to think about how he might act differently next time while he's not in the middle of a situation, and allow him to think it through more clearly to reference for the future.
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