Using time-out has become a regular disciplinary method that most parents use, but is it really effective? How many times have you put your child in time-out for misbehaving only to have him do the same thing you told him not to after he’s done with time-out? Who hasn’t struggled with making a toddler stay in time-out? You keep on putting him back but he keeps leaving the time-out space and pretty soon it’s turned into a game for him and frustration for you.
Why time-out doesn’t work
There’s actually a very good reason why time-out doesn’t work. Young children under 5 find it extremely difficult to control and regulate their feeling. So when they are asked to go to time-out and clam down they simply can’t do it. Whatever feeling your child is going through at that moment just seems too much to handle for him. He needs you to help him, he simply can’t do it alone. Another reason is that children need immediate consequences to help them learn. Prolonging punishment isn’t really going to help you emphasize your point. When a child is asked to go in his room and “think about what he’s done” that doesn’t give him any idea as to what he did wrong or what he could have done instead. Young children are still learning and exploring, everything is new to them. What might come naturally to you may be a skill your child needs to be introduced to. This doesn’t mean you should be permissive with your child and just let him do whatever he wants. Time-out can also be an effective tool when used positively.
What you can do
- Remove your child from the situation to a calm spot if he is misbehaving or is having a meltdown
- Remind your child of house rules like “no-hitting” depending on the situation
- Use time-out as a calming space and not punishment. Don’t leave your child alone in time-out and don’t associate it with something negative. Instead provide your child with support and comfort to help him recognize his feelings, listen to why he misbehaved, discuss with him why his behavior was inappropriate and explain the kind of behavior you expect from him.
- With repetition time-out can become a place for your child to regulate his feelings. Instead of threatening to send him to time-out you can enable him to use time-out to calm himself. If you start seeing signs that your child is feeling frustrated and agitated you can ask him if he needs some time-out. As your child grows older and learns to regulate his emotions on his own he can use time-out by himself.
- Don’t overuse it. Like anything else don’t resort to time-out every time your child misbehaves. Find out why your child is misbehaving or feeling frustrated and choose an appropriate solution for that specific situation.
- Distinguish between your child’s behavior and your child. Avoid using words like “stop being naughty”. Labeling your child tells him what to think of himself not his behavior. Instead explain what behavior was wrong “stop jumping on the sofa”. You want to send a message about your child’s behavior not himself to help him find an alternative and maintain his self confidence.
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Photo from Sheknows.com
This article was featured in Mother and Child magazine in English and Arabic
Almost every parent has been in this situation: you’re at the supermarket or a public place and your toddler or 3 year old is screaming and kicking on the floor! You’re wondering what happened and how do I handle this?? Most parents either resort to threatening their child to start behaving properly or they pick him up and rush out, but how effective are these methods and how long does the effect last? What is the most effective way to handling your toddler’s tantrum?
Reasons for Tantrums
First of all, handling a tantrum happens way before it actually happens. To start with, you must make sure your child’s basic needs are being met. A hungry or tired child is more likely to be more irritable than an energetic and satisfied one.
Next is understanding why your child is having a tantrum. At this age your child is having trouble controlling her impulses, she is also going through a phase where she is developing her sense of autonomy and physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive abilities. This can sometimes be hard to handle and overwhelming. She may feel a need to do things on her own but her body isn’t developed yet to support that. For example, putting on shoes or expressing herself verbally. These situations can be frustrating due to an inability to identify her feelings and express herself.
You should also keep in mind that lack of impulse control can play a huge factor in your child’s ability to control herself. The areas in the brain responsible for inhibitory skills as impulse control and delaying gratification (when your child persists to want the cookie NOW!) matures more slowly than other parts of the brain. By age 2, it’s development has started but won’t be well developed till about age 7.
Another reason for having a tantrum may be using it as a way to get attention. Reflect on your parenting strategy to decide this; do you respond positively when your child is not misbehaving? do you spend a significant amount of time correcting misbehavior? If so, your child may have learnt to get your attention through misbehavior.
Your child at this age is still developing the ability to share and negotiate. That’s why he may also resort to tantrums if he is refused something or another child is refusing to share or give a toy.
What You Can Do to Avoid Tantrums
With just a bit of forward thinking you can help your child avoid tantrums.
Make sure you provide an appropriate environment for your child; make sure your setting is child-friendly or bring along entertainment for your child (a simple box of crayons would do), check if your child will miss a meal or nap time while your out and make sure to provide an alternative. If you are going shopping, involve your child in finding items or counting them.
Foster your child’s autonomy and independence by giving choices and offer control. You can give choices in everyday situations like getting dressed, eating or bath time. Limit the options to two or three to avoid overwhelming your child. Also, try to avoid “Yes/No” choices. Instead, offer options like “will you wear your green or red t-shirt?” or “will you have your bath now or after dinner?”.
You can offer your child a feeling of control by letting her do things for herself; let her try to put her shoes on or try to feed herself. Remember to respect your child when you try to help. She will be more willing to accept your help if you ask “do you need help?” instead of rushing in silently and taking over what she is doing.
Realize your child’s developmental abilities to control his impulse and try to avoid temptations that may cause conflict. Remember that when your child feels overwhelmed comfort is more effective than correction.
Try to avoid confusing a real need for comfort with a way to get your attention. Only you as a parent can know your child well enough to identify when she is truly in distress or not. To avoid negative attention you can focus your attention on your child’s positive actions, try to minimize when you say “No” and use it only for few and important situations like standing on the sofa or touching the oven and ultimately ignore unwanted behavior if you realize it’s your child’s way of getting your attention (as long as your child is in a safe setting).
You can help your child identify feelings and express herself by using everyday situations to label feelings. When your child is crying or laughing use these as opportunities to point out and label how she’s feeling, just by saying “I know you feel sad” you are giving your child the words to identify how she feels. A great way to learn about feelings is singing.
At this age your child hasn’t developed the ability to share yet. Try to realize your child’s developmental abilities, most children develop this ability at around age 3. Don’t expect your 18 month old to share! By giving your child a secure and predictable environment you can help foster skills like sharing. Be consistent and follow through. By saying “you’ll get your turn” and consistently following through, your child learns to trust you, develops an ability to delay gratification and learns turn taking.
How to Handle a Tantrum?
So a tantrum was unavoidable, that’s O.K! Remember that your child is a person with feelings that can become overwhelming sometimes.At this moment he needs support and comfort delivered in a positive way.
- First, start with your self: As long as your child is safe, give your self a couple of seconds to look at the situation and approach it calmly. Remember to stay calm, you will really see the difference in your child’s response.
- Give comfort and love: hold your child and speak to her calmly and slowly. Tell her you understand she is feeling sad.
- Redirect her: Once you get her attention, try to calmly divert her to something else. Remember to stay calm and avoid being nervous or anxious.
- “Time-out”: If your child is still feeling frustrated, removing her from the situation may help. Take her to a calmer area and redirect her to a quiet activity like singing or reading a story. Once your child is calm you can bring her back to the play area.
- Ignore: Remember that some tantrums are ways of getting attention negatively. Try to ignore this type of behavior. By ignoring you are showing your child that this is not the way to get your attention. Remember to give attention to positive behavior, that way you show your child an alternative.
I hope you find this article practical and useful. 🙂 For some more information on temper tantrums go here
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