We banished time-outs in our house six years and two kids ago, and I hope you will do the same.

The shift was less about my daughter being the absolute worst time-out taker (and she was), than it was about me being out of control.

It always comes back to that, doesn’t it? The scariest thing isn’t how defiant our spirited child is, or how their sweet baby curls will surely burst to flame with the intensity of their tantrum, or how rude they just were to Grandma. The scariest thing is acknowledging our own interior emotion-scape of rage or embarrassment or insecurity.

Maybe you know this scene:

Time-out quickly becoming a battle of wills, dragging a child back to stay in The Spot, getting low and livid, practically touching their lollipop-guild-nose with your own as you grunt a guttural warning without moving your lips, little brother climbing who knows what in the background as you are locked into an ever-escalating situation where both parent and offending child end in a screaming fit of tears, and before you know it spanking seems reasonable and isolation feels like the only parenting play you have left.

Sprinkle in a few years of not sleeping and time-outs are tenuously ripe to fail.

When a particularly gnarly one went from bad to way worse culminated in the first and last time I ever spanked my child, I knew time-outs were off the table.

I was only punishing myself and my child.

Time-outs deny us human qualities by not allowing kids to have emotions and expecting parents to robotically respond in order to fulfill facilitation.

I don’t know about you, but my kids have feelings. Big, giant, not-gonna-hide-them feelings and no amount of year-per-age in timeout rule is going to jolt them from being who they are.

I do too. And that’s why I can’t do time-outs anymore.

The goal is to raise emotionally intelligent children who know all emotions are allowed here and have been taught acceptable responses to meet those feelings in a way that does not harm themselves or others.

So, if like me, you have cornered yourself into grasping for control from a rung-ladder of increasing consequences and frustration, please try these as an alternative way.

You don’t have to do time-out anymore.

You don’t have to punish your child for a behavior instead of teach them how to deal with their emotions or meet the need that precipitated that emotion.

You don’t have to punish yourself trying to force a time-out to go well.

I give to you FOUR TIME-OUT ALTERNATIVES THAT WORK.

1 Time-In

The original purpose of time-out was to take a break from the negative situation. A child is not going to behave better until they feel better, which comes through restored connection, not isolation.

Time-in spot draws the child close. It can be a beanbag. It can be a play tent with cozy pillows. It can be anything you want it to be as long as it feels soft, comforting, and you are there with your child.

Things you might find in time-in:

  • Blankets
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Books
  • Liquid Timer
  • Pin Art Toy
  • Music Box
  • YOU!

 

  1. Anger Outlet

Anger outlets give a child choices to exhaust their body and get the aggression out.

This makes us uncomfortable if we are not practiced in letting our child express their anger.

But this teaches our kids anger is okay, you counter. I get it.

This teaches our children emotions are neutral. Anger is neither good or bad; it just is. What we do with that anger quantifies as good or bad.

Anger is a chemical taking over the limbic system in the brain, producing physical responses in the body. It needs out. We can teach our children not to hit their sister and still give them satisfying avenues to be physical.

Things you might find in anger outlet:

  • Telephone book to rip up.
  • Bucket of toss and splat balls to throw against garage wall.
  • Bubble wrap to stomp.
  • Cardboard targets to spit on.
  • Resistance bands to pull.
  • Oversize pillows to hit.

 

  1. Swing and Sing

Sure, now swings make you want to yack. But as a child, we couldn’t get enough.

Swings are quintessential childhood. Kids feel powerful and simply put, good, on swings.

You know this from experience, but there is a scientific reason behind it. Swings give the body feedback that strengthens the vestibular system found in our inner ear that just so happens to be linked to the body’s orientation to gravity and a sense of safety.

Kids can’t behave better until they feel better. Swings and favorite tunes make kids feel better. Science and intuition align to be as simple as that.

Things you might find at a swing and sing set-up:

  • Backyard  swing set and boombox.
  • Indoor pod swing and headphones.
  • Outdoor/Indoor disk swing and blue tooth speaker.

 

  1. Let. It. Go!

Don’t even acknowledge the behavior. Simply change the circumstances.

This feels wrong to us. Ignoring feels like we are passively accepting behaviors or that we are raising children with no cause and effect understanding of their actions, or we are not being given the apology we deserve.

We all need a do-over sometimes; a begin-again. Child and adult. We need a little help kicking our brain and emotions into gear by changing the input.

This is when we bail for riding bikes in the driveway, or immediately head to the beach armed only with a bag of popcorn and a towel, or desperate-call the bestie to say we’ll meet at the park in twenty, or get out the fancy sprinkles to embellish banana muffins.

You know your child. You know which of these strategies you might try first the next time you two are headed toward another failed time-out.

You don’t have to torture yourself. You have other alternatives. You got this!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jenny Leboffe

Jenny lives in San Diego with her husband and five kids. She writes about everyday family life, foster care, adoption, and the spiritual expansion of motherhood at jennyleboffe.com. Join her story on Facebook or Instagram

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading