When Time Outs Don’t Work

Phases. Nothing pleasant comes to mind when I think of that word. Of course I’m sure there are some lovely ones. I can almost remember them…I think. But mostly, when I say, “He’s going through a phase,” it’s because chaos has taken over.

When my youngest was about 20 months I started implementing the Super Nanny timeout technique.

After one(ish) 😉 warnings I’d:

  • Set him in time out.
  • Tell him why he was there
  • Make him stay one minute for each year of his age (If he got up I’d place him back, without talking to him and start the timer over again.)
  • Repeat why his was in timeout
  • Have him apologize
  • Exchange hugs and kisses

And that method worked beautifully for a long time…until his next phase. Now he’s four, can hold a grudge for approximately 1,000 years, and time outs entail an hour and a half of him screaming at me while I hold the door shut because, no matter how many times I put him back in there, he doesn’t stay.

In other words, not my favorite way to spend a morning.

So, after I caught myself avoiding disciplining him because it was ineffective, I sat down with my husband and came up with a new two-part privilege-loss system.
new phase, new system

Here’s how it works. Every time he misbehaves
he gets an X. (Sometimes I give him a warning Three strikes you're out, of a privilege that is...

first, sometimes I don’t. It’s a judgement call and it depends on whether it’s a behavior we’ve

addressed before.) After three Xs, he loses a
privilege. (My awesome husband found pictures

for all of the common privileges we take away, like TV or dessert, so our pre-reader can see what’s gone.) Then we start all over again. You could, after three Xs, go straight to another privilege loss, but we like to start back at zero and work our way up again because it’s amazing how quickly our guy can rack them up when he gets in a mood.

positive reinforcement!The very important second part to this system is what we like to call our ‘Super Hero ListeningChart.’ Whenever he does something, like putting on his shoes, the first time I ask, he gets a sticker. When he earns enough stickers there’s a prize. (candy, a special outing, whatever motivates your kiddo)

I love this part because sometimes, when I’m analyzing my day, (very rarely a good idea) I find it’s been filled with a lot of discipline and not a lot of praise. It’s amazing how quickly a day can turn around when he’s given a sticker, or even how efficiently a task is completed when I remind him that there’s potential to earn one. His whole face lights up. And aren’t those always the best mommy moments?

A couple reasons why I believe this system works well for us:

  1. It keeps us consistent.
  2. He has a visual.
  3. It incorporates discipline and praise.

It isn’t fool proof. I still have bad days where I lose my temper, and he has bad days where he earns so many Xs I’m running out of things to take away. (Usually these two overlap.) But it helps. And isn’t that all we’re looking for as moms?

In the morning, especially after one of these difficult days, I like to make a show of turning over all the Xs and starting fresh. Because, as one of my favorite literary characters, Anne of Green Gables, once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

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One Response to When Time Outs Don’t Work

  1. Katie Danner
    Katie Danner January 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    What a great idea! I can definitely forget to add praise in with my disciplining. Thanks for the reminder!