Is smacking my child a good thing?
Some time-out tricks and whether smacking is a good discipline technique.

Time-out techniques

Paediatrician William Sears says that when behavioural psychologists introduced the time-out concept, it was originally titled, “time-out from positive reinforcement”.

Positive reinforcement means giving children loads of positive “time-in”, with a connected style of parenting. If the child misbehaves, this positive parental input is briefly withdrawn, he explains.  “As a result, the child gets used to feeling right when acting right, and feeling wrong when acting wrong. By making the connection between good behaviour and good feelings, the child becomes motivated to keep her act together,” he says.

Dr Sears’ top techniques for  a successful time-out are simple, but effective:

  • Focus on “time-in”.
  • Prepare your child Introduce time-out at 18 months, but before that, use distraction and diversion. If your baby keeps pulling the lamp cord, immediately move her away and sit between her and the lamp. Eventually, she’ll cotton on to the fact that some activities will be interrupted so it’s not worth attempting them again.
  • Out and about Sitting in a corner of the supermarket, or on a bench in a park, all constitute time-out when you’re not at home.
  • Keep it short and sweet Be prompt, cool and matter-of-fact, and don’t get angry. 
  • Keep it quiet Now is not the time to explain things – chat about the situation afterwards.
  • Use a timer Children under 3 don’t understand the concept of “2 minutes”, so an alarm clock or oven-timer works well.
  • Find a location You’ll need a special time-out chair or stool for smaller children, or for an older child choose a room in your house where she can’t be distracted. Bedrooms are not a good idea for this reason.  

Read: Making time-out work

Dealing with refusal 

If your toddler won’t go to, or stay in, time-out sit with her and explain that this is time-out time and it is going to happen regardless. If the actual term “time-out” is a problem, use alternatives such as “thinking time” or “quiet time”.

Last resorts

  • Parents should remember that children may not think logically until the age of 6. Add on extra time if she resists, or pull out all the stops by withdrawing privileges such as television or a favourite treat. You can also give a choice – to go to time-out or “be bored” for the rest of the day.
  • Use time-out for reflection on the incident. For example, if your child hurt her friend, give her some time to calm down and then ask: “How would you feel if Ella had smacked you like that?”
  • You may need some down-time too, so an alternative is to say that you’re having some time-out to recharge and find peace.
  • When it’s over, it’s over.
  • Sometimes, playing referee is all that’s needed and can avert a time-out situation. Children become quite caught up in frenetic activities when there are a large group of them, so if you sense that things are getting out of hand, separate everyone or have story time.
  • It’s not a punishment – view time-out as a reminder of what constitutes good behaviour – it’s a way to help everyone to work and live together peacefully.

Whatever you decide, remember that there is no one solution for “how to discipline” your child, says Robin. You are the key to making your relationship with your child work.

Click here for discipline tricks to try today

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