Time-Out Tactics and Alternatives: When Your Child Refuses Time-Out

father scolding daughter

Every parent likes to secretly think that their sweetheart is just a wee bit smarter, cuter, and better behaved than the neighbor's kid, but then reality hits. The day your little darling kicks, bites, yells, throws things (maybe even at you!), and gets into general mischief, you realize that you'll need to take disciplinary action after all.

No matter where you fall on the discipline spectrum, experts agree that kids thrive on boundaries. How those boundaries are set is every parent's personal decision, but using "time-outs" is a popular boundary-setting method many use to teach kids consequences. Does it always work? Unfortunately, no. You may have one of "those kids" who force you to get creative and come up with some alternatives for the days when he/she refuses to go in time-out. Here are some ideas to help you figure it out:

1. Chores

Making your child do chores as a punishment may seem like it's going to cause them to grow up and hate chores. However, the reality is, all kids hate chores, no matter what the reason. Keep chores light and age-appropriate. Remove all fun activities until the chore is complete. Stay with your child during the chore not only to guide but also to assure them that even though they may not like the consequences of their actions, they are still loved by you.

mom pointing at son

2. Time-In

The concept is similar to a time-out, but instead of sitting still, facing a corner or being quiet, kids get to stay busy. Think of it as structured time set apart to decompress. Give kids a quiet activity away from the family and tell them not to get up until the project is done. Activities can range from stringing beads on a piece of thread to coloring a picture by the numbers, to reading a book or organizing Legos by color or shape.

3. Consequence Jar

Have kids help you think of things they feel are appropriate consequences for bad actions. Write them down and put them into a jar. When naughtiness occurs, kids can choose a consequence such as doing an extra chore or task, not watching television all day, going to bed early, or even being unable to have their favorite snacks or desserts. Get as creative as possible. Chances are good that you'll need it.

mom scolding daughter

4. Isolation

If your kid just won't sit still in a chair for a time-out, isolation in a larger space may help. Place your child in their bedroom and set a timer. Be sure to remove items that they might find entertaining. They can come out once the timer goes off. This allows your child to move around and yet still be isolated from the rest of the family. If your child tries to come out early, reset the timer. While it's never a good idea to lock a young child in a room, you could stand by the door for the duration of the timer to ensure they don't try to undo the discipline by coming out early.

5. Physical Work

For kids who don't do well with time out, get physical, in a good way. Running, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and other physical outlets may be just what they need to burn off energy. Never, ever overwork a child or refuse them water if they're thirsty. The time of physical activity should match the time they would spend in time-out: only a few short minutes.

Experts frequently point out that positive reinforcement is a good deterrent to bad behavior. Praise your children for the good things they do and reward good behavior to show them that behaving has its benefits.