The Discipline Trick That Works

baby-215867_1280My kid behaves. And if you’re mad about it: you hate me ’cause you ain’t me.


Just kidding. My kid doesn’t behave, and if you hate me it’s because of the self-promoting idea that I might have found a discipline trick that works. Let’s all just have a laugh at the idea that I tried, did something, or discovered on Google something you, yourself, haven’t already found, tried, or Google searched to get your toddler to behave.

I had taught for nine years before leaving teaching. I have my Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Whenever my kids are throwing temper tantrums, I try to think about all the stuff I used to do in the classroom. Predictable schedules. Consistent expectations. Consistent responses to behavior. And a lot of times, disciplining as a parent just feels like wading in a sea of good ideas and Pinterest boards that I have no idea how to implement. Um, if I’m going to be honest, when I feel really defeated, I watch reruns of Super Nanny on YouTube and think of it as research. Jo, the Super Nanny, applies basically the same formula to every household: and it’s pretty much the things I mentioned above. Consistent consequences (time-outs), predictable consequences (post them), and a predictable and consistent schedule.

So that’s what we started doing at home. And now when I count to 3, I actually have an enforceable consequence (time-out). It has taken a while, but it seems to be mostly working. The trick I want to share with you, though, isn’t actually about going to time-out- like I said, I won’t pretend to to tell you something you don’t already know/can watch on Super Nanny. It’s actually a trick for getting out of time-out.

Because there are three adults in and out of this household, and consistency is so important, I thought it was probably a good idea to have a set method for getting out of time-out that wasn’t just “I’m sorry” or based on a subjective evaluation. There are a couple reasons for this: I want to be as sure as I can that my kids are ready to listen before I send them back to play. Secondly, I always want to lighten the mood before I send them back to play: I want them to be happy, not salty. And lastly, there just has to be a way “out” of time-out that isn’t based on whether the adult thinks they are ready- because that could be different between me, my husband, and our nanny. And they can’t stay there forever, and honestly three minutes isn’t always enough (especially mid-tantrum). So I like to have a method.

And this is the tip I have for you when it comes to time-out: when your kids are ready, have them follow three of your directions before they can go back to playing.

That’s it.

When Charlie is in time-out he has three steps he has to take to get out of time-out: 1) apologize, 2) show what hands are for (high-fives), and 3) follow directions to show he’s ready to listen. I like to change it up on him because it helps with executive functioning. So sometimes it’s “Touch your nose, touch your ears, touch your toes, go play!” (with him doing each step before going onto the next). Or it’s “Touch your nose! Stick out your tongue! Turn around! Go play!” It’s fun. And what I like about it is that now he has started to recognize when he’s ready to come out of time out on his own. Temper tantrums need to cycle themselves out, and interrupting them can actually make them last longer*. So he goes to time-out, and we walk away (per Super Nanny). If he’s in full-swing temper tantrum, we don’t interrupt: we just ignore. If he keeps leaving time-out, he goes to his room. Then, when he has calmed down, he comes out and asks for directions (usually just by saying, “Mama, touch your nose?”) Then we play our little game, and he’s good to go.

I want to share this with you because it’s working for us right now (and I go back to Indy Moms Blogger Lauren’s mantra “Do what works until it doesn’t”). It may help you, it may not, but I definitely wanted to be sure to pass it along.

*In this study, scientists put microphones inside of toddler onesies and recorded their temper tantrums. Then they quantified the noises toddlers make during tantrums: in other words, the screaming. These scientists listened to toddler screaming. Like, voluntarily, for research. I love this article and study, but never really appreciated the dedication it took to listen to all that toddler tantrumming until I had one of my own.

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