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.


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!

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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

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