Three Positive Alternatives to Time-Outs and Physical Discipline

In week 6 of our PRIDE classes (our adoption training) we tackled discipline. It's just after that halfway mark and a fun topic to listen as others weigh in on how they were raised, what methods they plan to use, and learn the differences between discipline and punishment.

Forewarning, y'all all think I'm crazy because I'm writing a blog on discipline and I am not a parent yet. Ha Ha, why would you even listen to me? Well, I have listened and researched other parents' methods and I'm just the messenger. So, no, I don't have first hand experience, and your ideas of "you don't have a clue Lauren, until you're a parent, you just don't understand" are accurate, but I'm not here to tell you what works for me or doesn't. I'm not here to judge how you parent or do things in your house. However, I found some new methods and philosophies of discipline that are intriguing and I think they could really help dial back the temper tantrums and get to a new level with your own kiddos, so I had to share.

Preface:  Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, where we will only use one method in our house and if you don't we disagree with your parenting or we think you did it wrong. I just want you to have the tools you need to make your household function and thrive and if that's a few more forms or methods up your sleeve, GREAT! Because we know kids like to push buttons, right? So these are just ideas that you might try and see if it works for your family.

I scroll through pinterest (where else?) and I find this image. At one time I thought these chairs were cute and funny. I thought time-out was a safealternativeto spanking when the crime was more about self-correction and thinking and less about punishing. 

Now I look at this chair with hopelessness. To me this chair says "Shame on you. Look what you did." And that has real, lasting impact, especially on kids that have been in and out of different foster homes with parents and people that were supposed to protect them and all they did was scar them more. My heart breaks now when I see this chair. I'm not shaming you if you have one in your home, I just want to show you how this class opened my eyes to things I didn't see before our journey to parenthood started.

The last thing I want to do as a parent is shame my children- to make them think that their behavior is who they are and our love is determined bywhat they do or don't do, make them feel embarrassed and worthless. I want them to really understand whywe punish, and not just look at us like we are the rule makers and enforcers in the house.

The truth is, we are ALL human- even parents. We all need to take a moment sometimes. Just because you are the parent, it doesn't make you perfect, but your kids have that expectation of you, because you never sit in the chair yourself when you do wrong, am I right?

*Note little Nora is not in time-out. This was just an adorable face she made during her family photo session the farm.


Ok so we know time-out is a method to isolate kids from interaction and let them think about their actions for a set amount of time. So what is time-in? Time-in is very much the same and very much different. The overall goals are the same, to get the child to realize what they have done wrong, correct the behavior, and learn that there is a consequence for their actions. However, time-in allows them to cope, instead of shame themselves. Time-in just means that instead of sending them off in isolation, they get interaction with adults while doing a punishment.

Here's an example: Susan is 8 and her responsibility in the house every night is to load the dishes in the dishwasher after dinner. Susan forgets to do the dishes because her favorite show comes on and she gets distracted. Instead of having a power-struggle and fighting about it, Susan will receive a time-in punishment. Her punishment might be to help clean up the entire kitchen with mom instead of just the dishes on her own time. Her punishment is not to sit in isolation, and it's not to take something away from her. Instead its one-on-one time with mom, spending time talking it out while doing the time, and fulfilling the punishment of getting an extra chore. While tackling this time-in, she gets to talk it out calmly, understand that there are consequences for not doing what she's responsible for, and she makes it up by doing something more than she's required with mom by her side, perhaps something she isn't usually responsible for on the daily basis. During this time you can talk about why she may have gotten distracted, how you can help her remember, and then connect on a deeper level by sharing time together that otherwise would have been spent doing things separately.

Does that make sense?

Here's the main points of a Time-In

  1. Connection before Correction- You have time to connect and communicate with the child, as opposed to correcting their behavior. This leaves more room for growth in your relationship. Respect is built instead of resentment.

  2. Big Feelings- When the moment is intense and everyone is over-stimulated emotionally and mentally, time-in offers a way to get it all out- together.

  3. Less Power Struggle- Instead of yelling and fighting, you do things calmly and children do not feel shamed or threatened. They feel empowered to make right choices in the future.

  4. Positive Punishment- Oxymoron, right? But seriously, a time-in gives them a chance to learn in a positive way why they are being punished- whythey have an extra chore or mom time instead of time alone being mad and alone and still not solving the issue.

Sometimes there's a tantrum in the store. There's no shaming them and waiting for a punishment when they get home. By then their mind is on to something else, or perhaps they have all that time with built up anxiety of what will happen when they are punished. Sometimes you just got to sit on the floor with them- "get on their level", focus on them- "eye-contact" and "talk it out" instead of lashing out, and "be consistent" with your follow through. Maybe their punishment is now they have to help you find items on the list instead of playing the game on your phone while you shop, after the cool down.

Ok, so here's another approach for you, just for kicks.

The Thinking Chair

Let's say an over-stimulated kid can't handle mom time or visa versa, mom just needs a break.

The concept of the time-out chair has me thinking about another method... The Thinking Chair. In our house this is a chair in the middle of the room where they can go when they (or you) need a moment. This chair is not in isolation. This chair doesn't limit interaction, but instead allows for engagement with others whose emotions aren't running on high. Perhaps I have to separate the kids because they are fighting. The thinking chair allows one of them to sit with dad while the other is in the kitchen with me. The thinking chair allows them to unwind and cool down. It doesn't read "shame on you, sit by yourself." It says, let's chill (not really, but it's in the living room). It's not only used for thinking. It's a regular seat that we use on a daily basis to watch tv, to be a family. It literally gives everyone a moment to catch their breath and respond instead of reacting.

Time to Yourself

Ok... one more, since I'm on a roll. Let's create a safe placefor kids. Let's be real, sometimes we need a break, and just because they are kids doesn't mean they don't too. Perhaps being in the thinking chair isn't the right option because they wantto be alone. Perhaps they need a breather, time to re-charge and reset.

Another mom calls this "time to yourself". This is not a punishment. This is a choice. Sometimes time-in right away is only going to heighten those big feelings and frust