Parenting, Parenting Tips

No More Timeouts, No More Tiger Moms: How to Discipline Your Kids by Disciplining Yourself

49 Comments 28 February 2012

TimeOut_400A major component of Attachment Parenting is what’s known as Gentle Discipline. Here’s what people say about it: “Gentle Discipline only works for small families, at-home moms, mellow kids, inhumanly super-patient moms who must possess alien DNA.” You name it, I’ve heard it.

I’ve also heard a lot of people from the “Tiger Mom” school of thought claim that Gentle Discipline encourages and allows children to do whatever they want; that they will “rule the house” and become spoiled and dictatorial tyrants who hold us hostage with their every whim. They hold that a firm hand (and even some physical consequences such as timeouts or spanking) makes for “good children.”

Gentle Discipline is not permissive parenting. It means parenting without violence, relying instead on respectful communication and seeking to see your child not as someone lesser or weaker than you who you can and should control, but rather as a partner in your life and a source of potential joy and loving interaction. Some general goals of Gentle Discipline include making our children feel safe with us, feeling that they are partners in their relationship with us, and finding ways for children to find better choices for behavior as opposed to simply teaching them to stop a behavior that we deem inappropriate. In addition, by nurturing respect and empathy, we teach self-discipline and encourage children to be the best that they can be.

What Works for the Wrong Reasons?
1) Timeouts.
I can usually identify a child in timeout by the sound of crying or screaming. The parent is usually close by, looking appropriately concerned and often murmuring reminders that this is because the child did so-and-so, and they can come back when the time is up, or when they stop crying. Gentle Discipline encourages us not to ignore the cries of a baby, and as children get older, they have more emotions and they acquire more words, but they do not acquire all of the words we’d like them to have. So they “cry” in different ways, and we have to—we are privileged to—take the time to learn these new cries.

2) Threat and reward.
Like timeouts, threats and rewards seem to work, but they work for the wrong reasons. Just as children respond to threats because they fear the consequences, they also respond to rewards because it is the reward that is driving them, rather than being motivated by working well with others, earning respect, being valued, and being appreciated and loved.

3) Violence. The only relationship in society in which you are allowed to hit or spank another person is your child; you can’t spank your husband or your wife. You can’t spank your teachers or your friends, and you most certainly can’t even adopt a pet in most states if you say that you plan to spank them. People who hit say that they hit out of love, and not out of anger. The distinction between hitting in anger (as in “the heat of the moment”) as opposed to hitting as part of a purportedly “calm” regimented spanking is an academic one, but not a practical one. Both methods involve hitting a child, thereby causing the brain to release neurotransmitters and hormones to cope with pain and fear while suppressing fight/flight pathways. The simplest reason we don’t hit is this: Hitting is hitting. It’s not love. It’s not teaching. It’s hitting. You can say you are hitting with love, or that you are using hitting to teach something, but it’s still hitting.

Research indicates that physical punishment fails to promote long-term compliance and is correlated with less internalization of “appropriate” behavior and compliance. Throughout the world, physical punishment is associated with increased psychological maladjustment and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Twenty four countries in the world have banned physical punishment and have seen amazing shifts in behavior and societal expectations. Maybe it’s that simple.

What Works for Us
1) Always assume the best.
All children have the potential to be sweet, cooperative, helpful, kind, and loving. Does this mean that they always are? No. Does this mean that they can be? Yes. Try to start each day knowing that somewhere inside even the unhappiest child there is the seed of a child that can grow into a happy one who meets your expectations and then exceeds them. This can only be done, though, when we foster that growth.

2) “Bad” behavior is a sign of an unmet need. When children act out, disobey us, behave rudely, or display disturbing emotions, it’s easy to dismiss the child or the behavior as “bad” or “wrong.” However, as we go about redirecting our children and disciplining them, it helps tremendously to see these behaviors as a child’s best attempt to meet a need. It calls upon us to look at our relationship with our child to try and find the source of their unmet need.

3) Parental timeouts. Imagine that the day comes when you cannot contain your disdain for the way your child is behaving. This is when it’s time for a parent timeout. If you have older children, you can simply say that you are having a hard time and you need a moment to gather yourself. Physically take a moment, or hone the skill of taking a timeout in the child’s presence using breathing techniques or some sort of mantra or short meditation.

Our Favorite Discipline Tools
1) “Not for” instead of “no.”
The word “no” is not very helpful and using it will come back to haunt you. We’ve used the word “no” very rarely; instead, coming up with myriad ways to indicate “no” and stop undesirable behaviors. We never baby-proofed our home except for power outlet covers, and a stern tone (which we saved for only such occasions) and strong body language did the trick in averting exploration of dangerous things. To this day, neither of my boys have ever said, shouted, or screamed “NO!” at us.

2) Give a “yes” for every “no”—sometimes two. There are times when we need to and ought to say “no” to a child, such as when a slice of brightly colored, fantastic-looking birthday cake is not vegan. Small people love to hear “yes” even if it’s after “no.” Even if it’s a really disappointing “no,” I’ve found that providing a “yes” to something else can work wonders. So for the non-vegan cake, if the answer is “no,” the “yes” is to our own treat waiting for us at home after the party.

3) Pick your battles/Do you want to die on this mountain?/Let it go.
I am not a permissive parent; I hope you can trust me on this by now. However, a very effective tool I have used possibly more than any other as a parent is this: Pick your battles, especially with a baby. Ask yourself, “Do I want to die on this mountain?” and answer it very clearly and honestly. Know that sometimes you just have to let it go and that this does not doom your child to a lifetime of bad behavior. It simply means that you acknowledge that every phase is just that: It’s a phase, and it will pass. And it will usually pass with you doing very little to fix it; maturity, experience, and observing good modeling of behavior is often enough to correct undesirable behavior.

Certain behaviors, such as a baby who bites while nursing or a child who thinks it is funny to pull hair, need a different kind of guidance, but for most things that are challenging but not truly problematic, I say let it go and you will be amazed that it passes. You don’t have to punish a baby for it to pass. I am here to tell you that it passes on its own.

Gentle Discipline can work for every child and every parent, if only we invest the time and energy to make it happen with consistency, authenticity, and love. And that is quite simply, the most intuitive way to discipline and to be.

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Mayim Bialik

Author

Mayim Bialik, Ph.D., is perhaps best known for her lead role as Blossom Russo in the 1990s television sitcom Blossom, and she currently appears on the top-rated comedy The Big Bang Theory. Bialik earned a B.S. from UCLA in 2000 in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007. She designed a neuroscience curriculum for homeschoolers in Southern California, where she also teaches middle and high school students. Married to her college sweetheart with two young sons, Bialik is also a Certified Lactation Education Counselor. Visit her at MayimBialik.net.

Your Comments

49 Comments so far

  1. Michele Daniels says:

    Thank you for your posts…I can not wait to read your book :) It has felt like a battlefield at times at our house so I am looking forward to trying some of your advice…our children are such blessings and gifts from God and it is important to me to honor that gift by doing my best when it comes to raising my Zoë (3 1/2) and Ethan (1 1/2) Is there anyway to reach you with questions or can I post them here?
    Thank you again
    Michele Daniels

  2. Nicole says:

    Excellent points! We try to use guidance and positive parenting, as well, rather than punishment. When one of my kids does something that disappoints, rather than getting angry I will often say, “I’m really disappointed that…” or similar. Guess what has more of an impact? I used to yell. I used to scream. I’ve even spanked once or twice…but letting my kids know they’ve let me down is the most effective tool in my parenting belt.

    My friends and I often joke around about “If you could meet anyone famous, who would it be?” And I’ll say Mayim Bialik…Mayim Bialik the author and the parent, not the actress. Fortunately my group of friends know exactly who–and what–I mean! {So if you’re ever in British Columbia, look me up–you know, Nicole from Canada…}

  3. cole says:

    I appreciate the principles given. However, I see very little difference in a stern “not for” with strong body language and a calm spanking despite your calling it “hitting” (pejorative word).

    I received few spankings, but when I did at no time did I think of this as “might makes right” or “violence solves problems”. I viewed it as discipline for wrong and changing my attitude. And, I did change my attitude. I had respect for my parents and recognized that if they thought whatever I had done was serious enough for a spanking then it was a good indicator that I needed to change this behavior for my own good.

    I was very secure with my parents and could talk to them openly. I believe it comes down to how spankings are done just as how stern tones and body language are used.

    This is not an either/or approach. All the techniques are helpful if done properly by parents that love and respect their children (as my parents did).

  4. K AMS says:

    Hahahahaha! Foolish foolish woman! This is the funniest article ever! You won’t say no about the electrical outlet or a hot stove, or other real dangers, but you will say no about a slice of non-vegan birthday cake?!?! Hahahahaha! Good luck to your kids! They will need it!

  5. A.M. says:

    Giving children a ‘yes’ or two for every ‘no’ does not prepare them for real life. Real life isn’t ‘fun’ and all people, children included, need to get used to dealing with disappointment.

    Bad behavior is not the sign of an unmet need. It is the sign of an immature child who has no impulse control and does not yet understand they cannot have everything they want, and that sometimes they have to do things they don’t want to do.

    The parenting style described here gives me no confidence that it won’t raise kids with an entitlement complex that think that they can negotiate anything they want.

  6. saad says:

    A.M !!!!!!!!!Very well said.

  7. frances says:

    I think that the commenter who mentioned that the need for our children to experience disappointment is right. I would disagree, however, in how we participate in that experience. An empathy led, or in this case, gentle discipline, practice of parenting does not mean that you always say yes and it does not mean that the child always gets what he or she wants. What it means is, that when a child is disappointed, we, as parents, support and hold the feelings around the disappointment. Hold them, let them cry and be sad about it. If they are mad and want to hit, teach them to stomp their feet or push on the wall. What matters more to the child, what makes the biggest impact is that the child feels hear or understood. These are opportunities to connect with our children and to help shape the development of their brain. This is how a child learns empathy. This is how a child learns respect. The more we learn about the brain, the more evidence we have to support this kind of parenting practice.

    I think it’s also important to mention that Time Outs are a way of withholding or withdrawing love because when you forcibly separate yourself from your child and tell him or her that you are not available until they “behave” you are creating a big disconnection in the bond that you have with your child. A two year old can’t tell the difference between 5 minutes and an hour. This separation creates a huge amount of anxiety and emotional pain.

    We parents want so much to prepare our children for the world and we don’t want to screw it up.
    http://www.echoparenting.org is an amazing resource. Check it out!!

  8. Eleanor Gray says:

    I really appreciate this article–lots of good reminders. It’s so hard to not try to just get compliance sometimes. But unless it’s dangerous, I know the respectful, loving way to interact with my child, who is a full-fledged person after all, is to search for the need behind the behavior. I know from my own experience that I am a difficult person to live with if I’m not meeting my own needs. This approach requires us to accept responsibility for our own needs, so we can then have the vocabulary and sensitivity to help our children through their tangle of emotions to their needs. In my experience, I haven’t found many people who understand this approach. And many of the comments reflelect this ignorance.

    Unfortunately, I don’t agree with the commenter that saying you are disappointed in your child is a form of gentle discipline. I believe that this is considered a form of shaming, which does not establish a deeper, more loving connection with our child. The author discusses ways to maintain an emotional connection, even in the midst of our child exhibiting behaviors we don’t like or that are dangerous and need to be stopped.

    I could go on, but I just wanted to leave my take and appreciation for this article. It takes courage to be open about parenting in a paradigm of mutual respect, rather than absolute authority.

  9. Alicia says:

    What a joke this article is. It’s not realistic.

  10. Dixie Stevenson says:

    I was just thinking about how I would like to be more gentle with my girls and how the responsibility is mine not theirs. Thank you for writing this.

  11. TheProgressiveMama says:

    i find that writing a list of all the positive things i love about my children makes them behave better. the screaming stops when i stop focusing on the “problem” and start focusing on the things i love about them. it’s all about focus for me.

  12. a vegan says:

    I’ve been a vegan for 3yrs now. I agree with most of your article. Everything was going well until … I had to first reread and then shake my head at shouting “no!” to your child having a piece of vegan cake, while the very next paragraph is about picking your battles. Unfortunately, you lost all credibility there. What I’ve learned about being vegan is 100% vegan in my home, when I am out of my home aim for vegan but settle for vegetarian, and when visiting family and friends, do my best. Sorry, I was really into your balanced and patient approach, but if you haven’t found a way to bring that to your child’s eating in public (eg allow for vegetarian, bake an equally exciting vegan treat to share at the party) then you haven’t really found a way to practice what you preach. Or, just don’t use that example …

  13. Joy says:

    Enjoyed this article, but the “not for” in case of dangerous situations and “no” to non-vegan cake is quite funny to me, even though I’m a vegan. Seems like the non-vegan cake would be a not-for: “That cake is not for us because of how it’s made” (though I’d never say that in the hostess’ presence). Outlets, fireplace, stove, stairs: NO.

  14. Angela says:

    I have watched a friend raise her child with this approach. Perhaps she hasn’t done it well, but I tend to think the approach is ridiculous. I cut short a visit to their home because he child’s behaviour was so atrocious. The child was slapping my face and jumping up and down on the couch to prevent the mother and I from having a conversation. The mom’s response was a sympathetic, “I understand that it’s frustrating when you feel you aren’t being heard.” The visit ended with with child yelling at me, “You have to go! Leave now!” and mother nodding sympathetically and trying to understand the root of the child’s emotions.

    This is not teaching a child to build a strong relationship with a parent. This is raising a self-indulgent monster who won’t socialize well with peers or other adults. In reflecting on your opening paragraph, this child truly will only succeed in home-school with the parents’ complete attention at all times.

  15. debbie says:

    I agree with Gentle Discipline as long as it is discipline. As adults we discipline ourselves to get the results we want and our every choice (good or bad) in life has consequences. Therefore, wouldn’t we want to teach our children this early on? A time-out can be done with love and patience, taking away a favorite toy can be done with love and patience, but children still need to learn there are consequences to their every action.

  16. MJ says:

    For anyone who thinks these parenting techniques are unrealistic, I urge you to dig a little deeper and read some child psych books. Articles like this usually do not have time to get into the studies , but instead of arguing against it and making blanket statements, perhaps if you actually do a bit of research you will see there is much evidence to prove these things WORK. Most parents are resistant to change simply because it is easier to parent the way our parents did, and easier to parent with force than to take the time to find another way that works.

  17. Racheal says:

    MJ – actually, I don’t parent the way my parents did. I haven’t spoken to my mother in over 4 years b/c she felt it was ok to try to convince my husband to divorce me simply b/c my mother in law wanted it & was spending lots of money on her. So yeah, not exactly a good example of parenting. I also think this article is horrible & full of nothing but judgments & condemnation for people who don’t do things Blossom’s way! Sorry, but doing what somebody else tells you is right is not being ‘INTUITIVE’, despite what the last paragraph says. Last time I let listening to somebody else override my intuition I ended up with an unneeded c/s that has led to lots of long term problems for me & my family & to us having to fight just to not have a c/s with child #3 just b/c child #1 was (even though #2 wasn’t). So yeah, I’ll parent & live intuitively… and that means laughing & walking away from most of what this article has to say. As somebody else said, she total lost me when dangers get a stern ‘Not for’ & you reserve such cruel, harsh word as *gasp* ‘NO’ for things like the evil non vegan cake!

  18. Lisa Brown says:

    I think this is a great article with a lot of tips I hope to try. something I’ve started doing on my own with my toddler is using “positive affirmations’ to correct behavior. Instead of telling him not to hit, I have him say (in an energetic, fun way) “I don’t hit.” “Hitting is not nice.” “I don’t hit my mommy.” “I don’t hit my daddy.” And they seem to work great. I find that it’s a great way to remind him, that at hi very core, he is a good person :)

  19. Jennifer says:

    We practice gentle discipline in our home. We have 3 boys (7 years, 4 years and 1 year). This method works for us. We are not yellers or spankers. This approach also needs to be age appropriate, all boys are on a different level of learning and understanding. The results for us have been great. Well mannered and behaved children. Do they have moments where they have a melt down? Sure, I would say most kids do at certain ages. For the most part my kids seem to be respectful, social, and well rounded. I don’t think every parent who does this method will have the exact same results. All kids have different personalities, and some even have disabilities which may make them look out of control at times, etc.

  20. gaby san says:

    only when I finished the article did I realize this was written by Amy Farrah Fowler.

    I liked your post, even though I also thought it is a bit unrealistic, specially when I can’t sit and validate my toddler’s feelings when he’s trying to jump into the subway tracks in a crowded platform. much to his permanent emotional damage I usually army-wrestle him to a shoulder carry and take him to a safe place. but I do strive for a gentle, more reasonable approach.

    and I get that the vegan cake part was probably a joke, but I didn’t think it came off right. you should change your example. love your work!

  21. Mommyof2girls says:

    “Gentle Discipline is not permissive parenting” Obviously examples of how it didn’t work means that the child was not disciplined – which by the way, means to teach. No one taught that child how to to respect other people. It does not mean that Gentle Discipline didn’t work. It does not mean that people who chose to use gentle discipline have crazy out of control kids. I constantly get people telling me how well behaved my children are, when we are out to eat, when we are out in public. Practicing gentle discipline does not mean I am teaching them to be a jerk, I am teaching them that you do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because you have to sit in a corner for 5 minutes, not because a toy was taken away or you got a cookie, but because you are motivated to do the best thing because you learned what the best thing was. And anything that is matter of health is non negotiation. It does not mean you have to talk your kid to death as to why a light socket is a bad thing to play with or why it’s not okay to hit someone. I practice gentle discipline and was irate at another mother at a playground who kept trying to talk to her kid into not hitting my child, while the child, at 5 years old, would not stop. She wasn’t practicing gentle discipline, she was avoiding the seriousness of the situation and letting her child decide how to parent herself…this child was calling out for someone to guide her. I do not understand why people get this confused.

    And for some reason this vegan cake is a hot topic, she said IF, IF, not don’t eat it, she said IF in your family it’s a no, then give an alternative. Geesh, she was making a point, not saying eating vegan cake was worse than playing with an electric outlet.

  22. Ardvark says:

    I’d definitely need some references to an evidence base before I’d be taking any of this on board – anybody can spout an opinion, and anyone can say there is evidence to support their opinion – but in order to mount a convincing argument, you need to demonstrate the evidence. Until that happens – its just a mad vegan with terrible kids spouting on from some fairy dust fantasy. If however there is consistent strong evidence littered throughout the article backing up every point – well then you got yourself an argument. Sorry to be so evidence based but this is important stuff.

  23. Jenifer says:

    I would say that, in addition to an unmet need, there are two other reasons that I’ve seen for my son’s freaking out:

    1. handling frustration — he’s 3.5, and some things don’t work the way he wants (like when he’s stacking blocks and wants it to go a certain way). His practice is to *freak out* — which is what he dad does. So, he’s mirroring.

    This means that A. dad has had to get on the stick about managing his frustration in more appropriate ways, including just learning to breathe, relax, and calm down for goodness sakes! (mom, too, but dad is particularly prone to this same ‘instant meltdown!” behavior).

    And B. that we need to have ways to teach him how to manage his frustrations. We use deep breathing, singing “om” (might not work for other families), and snuggles and talking about his frustration after breathing and/or “om.” Sometimes, we just redirect after hearing him out — I see that you are frustrated, why not set this project aside and go to this for a little bit, then come back and see if it works later.

    Also, we’ve been working on the idea that it’s ok for something not to work, and for you to relax and try again (something my husband also works on! lol).

    2. checking for hunger or related issues.

    When DS is hungry, he’s quicker to melt-down.

    But we also noticed something else: when he has too much sugar or wheat, the problem is the same. We generally follow a paleo diet, but he occasionally gets “treats.”

    Over the holidays — when my family was visiting us — this was not occasional, and in my recollection, the holiday was one extended tantrum. My parents said the same — and when they left and treats were gone, so also did the behavior improve back to normal.

    Granted, this could be because of the excitement of th grandparents being there, the different rhythms in our lives, the process of travel, and the frustration of not always getting to do what he wanted (he had lots of plans for what he wanted to show his grandparents). When we started to get into a rhythm, and he was choosing an activity each day to share, then he settled down, but he would still tantrum a fair bit even so.

    And it usually occurred within 1 hr of having had the sugar. So, I’m thinking it’s probably a sugar crash.

    Anyway, when the holiday was over, we were more back to normal, but when we would give him a “treat” — usually sugar such as ice cream — he would usually have a melt down within an hour or so.

    This has taught us a lot — which is to say, no sugar!

    I know a lot of people already do this — and maybe it is obvious, but we like to do ice cream as a family now and again (once a month or less) or get a slice of cake at the local coffee shop (again, once a month or less, and usually the alternative to ice cream). We don’t’ do soda, juice, etc — so it’s very limited. But it still has it’s affect.

    And so here we are. Sugar free week 10. It’s going great. Now, he only gets frustrated now and again, usually when he’s been working on a given project for several hours (yes, I know, he has weird focus), and it’s just not working.

    YEsterday, it was because the viking hat that he made would not stay on the r2d2 (no, he hasn’t seen the movies, it was a random gift). He’d spent several hours making the hat, then he would move R2 in his viking costume, and the hat would fall off.

    After a little bit of breathing, talking about the situation, and having a healthy snack, he figured out how to better attach it, and he and R2 spent the better part of the afternoon slaying dragons (in the shape of mom and the cat, Mr Toast).

  24. Wonderful Article! I hope that in future (or in your new book) you will discuss more on the topic of time-outs being counter productive.

    We (husband and I) were raised by spankers, yellers, shamers and guilters which are all currencies we didn’t want to subject our children to. We’ve found that utilizing the principals of attachment parenting has helped us as a couple and as individuals all while cultivating an incredible relationship with a wonderful child that we are so lucky to have in our lives. He is a joyful 2 year old who is easy going, outgoing and respectful, I believe, due to our respectful parenting style.

    What you model through your behavior towards your children is what you will get. If yelling, hitting, contrarian behavior is what has been modeled..you will get that back from your child. If respectful, considerate, thoughtful behavior is what you model for your child..that is what you will get.

    Thank you, again for your efforts!

  25. Elaine says:

    I agree about “yeses for nos”, “not for”, and about picking your battles, and I would be interested to know the author’s view on how to deal with the battles you do want to pick – for example something like your pre-verbal toddler hitting or biting another child. I expect the “permissive” approach would to let your child hit or bite, and the authoritarian approach would be to spank, to so what is the “gentle” approach ?

  26. San says:

    One commenter wrote “The parenting style described here gives me no confidence that it won’t raise kids with an entitlement complex that think that they can negotiate anything they want.”

    What is wrong with negotiating skills and being able to get what you want? Most people are unfulfilled precisely because they don’t even know what they want. Knowing what you want, having confidence that you can get it and not giving up is most important in success in life.

  27. Chris White says:

    Great article! However, one issue that I frequently encounter with each discipline approach is the idea that it is “supposed to be done a particular way.” I like the idea of having an “ideal” to aim for, but we need to let parents know that human beings grow from a variety of different experiences and that mis-takes are actually necessary nourishment on the path to maturity. Sadness, disappointment, feelings of powerlessness — these are all transformative emotions when the parent is there to help regulate and support the child in feeling their vulnerability.
    Just putting in my two cents to not make it all about “yes’s” and rosy-ness. Check out http://www.essentialparenting.com/get-started/loving-discipline/ for a broader view of discipline.

  28. tudor says:

    tons of bs from someone who thinks she har all the answers in the world. raise your children as you want, don’t try to teach others – they aren’t rising your children…

  29. Annette says:

    We give our little one (22 months) time-outs to help her calm herself as much as anything else. We sit within reach and provide emotional support, but she need to sit on her stool and calm down. She will even put herself there when she knows she’s been acting out. So it’s not punishment as separation/denial of love at our place, it’s a time to calm down and learn self-discipline.

  30. Nik says:

    I agree that saying your disappointed isn’t a good idea. That’s laying on guilt which is actually worse than just saying no. Saying No is neutral. Sometimes I say, “I can’t let you do that”. I like that one.

  31. Lisa Lang says:

    I wanted to be the best parent for my children and I didn’t find these books till my oldest was 3yrs and my second child was 1. The books changed our whole life and made everything so much better. The books were “Dare to Discipline”, The Strong-Willed Child”, and Parenting isn’t for Cowards” by Dr. James C. Dobson. My oldest is now 23 and my youngest is 10 and we still read through them. I cannot say enough about the books. It really works.

  32. yvonne says:

    I was put in time-out when I was younger and told to THINK about what I did and why it was wrong. Before I could talk well, my mom would tell me why what I did was bad while in time-out. When I could speak, after time-outs I had to tell my mom why it was wrong. I was about 2 1/2 years old when I began taking time-outs without being told to. I feel that time-outs taught me to reflect upon right and wrong and helped me put myself in others shoes. Once a little older I also learned to take time-outs in order to control my temper. So I’m not so sure time-outs are injurious rather than helpful if done properly.

  33. Nik says:

    I don’t think they have to be. It depends on the child and the attitude of the parent. Both my kids are stubborn like me, so I always helped them find a way to calm themselves after some kind of a blow up or meltdown, then as they got older, they would walk away and cool down. Later, we would talk about what happened. I think the point is to figure out what you need to help your child with, based on their personality and the situation at hand and teach them without drama and judgement. When parents go around saying things like you’ve been “bad” and all that kind of stuff, that’s not really teaching, that’s labeling and it’s not helpful. Then the kid is all about figuring out what’s wrong with them instead of figuring out how to manage the world. Kids should grow up believing that they are basically in fine working order and that they just need to figure out how to work the equipment (their minds and bodies). If they are constantly told they’re broken, it’s hard to move forward and be a good person and citizen. When kids are told they’re defective, they will believe it and will eventually take themselves out of the race by using drugs, alcohol, food, a boring job, etc. to basically hide from life.

  34. Nik says:

    Totally agree with you Chris. If you make everything positive for your kids, it just teaches them that they should be afraid of negative emotions. That’s very unhealthy in my view.

    I see our emotions as being a gauge of what’s going on (like a gauge on a car). I always let my kids feel what they feel because otherwise it’s like covering the gauge up and asking them to drive properly. If they get used to reading the gauge and figuring out what it means, it only makes them a better driver. In other words if kids KNOW how they feel and figure out why, it only makes them understand themselves better.

    Just because they feel angry, doesn’t mean they should act on their anger in a mean way, but they should be aware they feel it and why, THEN decide what to do about the situation.

  35. Amber says:

    I hope you read this: I’m really wanting to understand your study of spanking and the Bible. I first began looking into it after reading your book and though I’m mostly persuaded, it was help
    me so much if you wrote on it. I know millions of people have probably asked, but it would mean a lot. Thank you!

  36. dc says:

    Nobody, and I don’t care how educated you are, should give advice on how to raise a child until their children are at least 30. It’s so easy to think you know what you’re doing when your children are responding to your experiments when they’re young. The real results don’t show up until they’re in their twenties. And this I know.

  37. Ms M says:

    I disagree with the person who said that time out is negative because it is removing yourself and your love from the child until they behave better. Time out is not removing yourself from the child, it’s removing the child from the situation in which their behavior was problematic. And the way that you frame time-out for the child is important too, because that affects the way they see it. For example, I once worked with a two year old child who threw constant temper tantrums. This was very inappropriate and disruptive behavior. So I put a chair in the corner of the room and said “This is your calm down chair. I want you to sit here until you can calm down, and then you can come back and join the game.” In the future, when he threw tantrums, I would give him the choice of stopping the tantrum or sitting in the chair until he was done. He nearly always stopped immediately, but once or twice he actually went to the chair on his own, choosing to take a break and calm himself down.

    At work (I’m a teacher), I use time-out as a standard discipline method. But I frame it this way: everyone is here to learn, and our rules and consequences are here to protect everyone’s learning and make sure that we have a safe and happy experience. If what you are doing is preventing someone from learning or making their learning experience unsafe or unpleasant, then you need to be away from them for a while to think about how you can make better choices.” There is nothing in that statement that says I don’t love them anymore because they made a poor decision. It simply says they don’t have the right to impede the learning of others, and the consequence for that is to learn independently for a while rather than as part of the group.

    I realize that I’m not a parent, I’m a teacher, and there are distinct differences in the two relationships and situations. But after working with kids for 10 years in various contexts, I’m no stranger to misbehavior or discipline, so these are my two cents.

  38. Sharon says:

    Yet another set of directions to help make me feel inadequate

  39. Sharon says:

    Sorry, unfair for me to rant on your page :-(

  40. Feli says:

    Great article! It is always the adults who need to discipline themselves, then there is no use whatsoever of any “methods” to discipline the kids. I have never had to use reward/threat or time-out methods because my son (now 4) is being treated with love and utmost respect and he always cooperates! It’s as simple as that!

  41. kojala says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a very controversial topic!

  42. Annette says:

    For the nay sayers…here is the easy answer IMO:

    YOUR way is behavior modification. You train the child to behave how you feel is appropriate.

    THIS way is connection based/emotionally aware parenting. We view behavior as a symptom of an inner issue, and if we get to the inner need of the child, the bad behavior goes away.

    Both “work”, but behavior mod is more immediate, convenient for adults in the moment and looks “good” to strangers. The gentle alternative here however, provides a more trusting and trusted teenager…and a happier child who was not taught to be ashamed of his.her natural process.

  43. nathan says:

    This is crazy talk. If your child is 5 yrs old, and you are trying to communicate with them like they are an adult, you are the problem, not the solution. This reminds me of little leagues where they don’t keep score so that everyone can be a winner. Its not reality. Totally agree with the parent taking time out every now and then. But I’ll take my parenting advice from the bible, (which I know sounds soooooo crazy), instead of Blossom. As parents we should strive to bond with our child and care and nurture them until they can on their own, not let them fend for themselves and make their own decision to drink the window cleaner under the sink because it looks like juice. Set some boundaries people. Protect your children from pain and dissapointment

  44. nathan says:

    Later by showing them it exists. Not pretending it doesn’t. I have no problem with the vegan cake issue but I have to question any parent who doesn’t prepare their home for a child. You can tell a kid that the stairs are “not for” playing all day. But what happens when they fall on accident and you didn’t have a gate up…

  45. nathan says:

    This just seems like it will produce a child with no limits. One that that will eventually walk all over you. And I know I don’t have a PhD beside my name, but the term disability is used a little loosely these days–a child who is hyper or sad or quiet doesn’t automatically have some sort of social disorder. They usually haven’t been taught to cope with these feelings, and a lot of times its because the parent just can’t bear to see their child hurting. We all have to learn things on our own and until we learn that parenting is more important than being our child’s friend, there will be issues. I would venture to say most parents who agree with blossom still let their kids sleep in bed with them every night, and saying that this bed is “not for” you is nowhere on the horizon.

  46. nathan says:

    Nicole from canada, if you could meet anybody famous it would be blossom. Whaaaaaaaat. Come on now.

  47. iris says:

    The only family I know that uses that technique has THE most out of control child (4 years old) that I have EVER seen. He constantly tells his parents he hates them, he cannot share with other kids and will scream at the top of his lungs, trow things, slam doors, call names ect, if he is ask to share or do anything that he doesn’t want to do. And his parents just gently plead for him to be nice. Yeah right. I’m sorry but children need rules and limitations and they need to know right from wrong, and when they cross the line they need to KNOW it in no uncertain terms.

  48. ray says:

    This.is.bananas. I’m sorry. How is it possible children are prepared for the outside world? At what point to they realize that the world does not revolve around them? and yes to who ever pointed out that we don’t say to ‘no’ to electrical outlets but NOOOOOOO to non vegan birthday cake. lol Boundaries are important.

  49. Monica says:

    ray, I completely agree with you. It’s not that I disagree with the notion that more gentle discipline may work well for some families, but I think it’s unwise to vilify an effective and safe discipline technique like time outs. Parents need every tool available to them. It’s ideas like this that makes parents feel powerless when their children exhibit persistent negative behavior. I made a video about it here… http://youtu.be/grsOKHycHT8


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