Time Out's a Bust and Other Discipline Measures That Don't Work


I don’t spank my children. That’s not to say I have never spanked them because I have and I regretted the decision to do so immediately. Raising my hand to Anders in anger left me feeling like a bully and I don’t think it served its purpose — to teach him that what he was doing was wrong — and aside from that momentary lapse in judgement I’ve chosen to employ other means of discipline outside of corporal punishment.

I would love to tell you that I’ve found some genius method for making my 5-year-old behave like a well-polished gentleman, but in truth it has been an arduous journey to “good enough” behavior. There are days when our conversations are peppered with “please” and “thank you,” days when not a single piece of furniture is jumped on, and no one pokes or pushes or shoves their sibling.

Occasionally, a few days like that will pass in a row and that’s when I get cocky and decide we should go out to eat as a family at a sit down restaurant. Fifteen minutes into the meal, when I am pulling one child and then the other out from under the table, when I’ve spirited away all the condiments and sugar packets to a secure location, and have done my best impression of my mother in reminding everyone of their inside voice, I realize what a crappy method of discipline time out really is. My children use time out to plan their next attack and its mention by me as a consequence for their actions is regarded as little more than a potential inconvenience.

Thinking chairs, time outs, star charts, empty threats made in desperation — I’ve tried these methods and more. Everything works for a spell. Nothing works for good.  I’m beginning to think children just aren’t meant to behave at all times like well-polished gentlemen. Maybe they are supposed to give us hell sometimes. I certainly wreaked my fair share of havoc in youth. I think this may just be one of those full circle things.

As far as kids go, Anders is a good one. There are certainly more well-behaved children, but there are worse. I just wish I had a little more confidence in the methods I’m using to teach him right from wrong. As he gets older, the consequences of bad behavior only become stiffer and in many cases will be enforced by people and institutions aside from myself.

Thankfully there is still time between here and there and until we get there, there will be lost stars and time spent in chairs and the loss of privileges that simultaneously punish him and myself. I can only hope some of this is sinking in.

Read more from Amber on her blog The Daily Doty.

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