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6 Alternatives to Time-Outs for Your Toddler

Figuring out how to discipline your kids can be tough. Jamie Glowacki, author of OH CRAP! I HAVE A TODDLER, shares his alternatives to time-outs.

The big question, then, is how to deal with toddler and preschooler shitty behavior. If we’re not using time-outs or corporal punishment, what can we do? The following ten things are not in any particular order and can be used in conjunction with one another or as solo techniques.

1. Take yourself out of the mix.

If your child has done something that makes your rage boil, chances are your little one hit a trigger point for you. This is the time to remove yourself. Maybe it means leaving the room. Or hiding out in the parental office, otherwise known as the bathroom. You will have a teaching impact when you do this without having to say much of anything to your child.

2. Whisper.

When our kids start acting like fools, our inclination is to raise our voices and, yeah, sometimes yell outright. This is especially true if our kid is getting louder and more out of control. But there’s extreme power in doing the opposite. Whispering makes the child have to stop to hear you. Right there, you’ve disrupted the escalation. Whispering is also 100 percent less threatening than yelling. In any heated situation, you will meet the vocal response that’s thrown at you. Yelling has to be matched with yelling. Kids are no different. Whispering is verbal nonviolence.

3. Get down on their level.

There is nothing more threatening than having someone tower above you. It’s super scary and it makes kids lash out physically, trying to gain some ground. You can be super effective when you’re looking your little one in the eye, on his level. Kneel down in front of him so you are eye to eye. If you feel like you need to place him on a chair to get his attention, just kneel in front of him. The idea is to take away your height, which can be so threatening in an emotionally charged situation.

4. Take a time-in or take a break.

One of the best reasons for a time-out is to take the child out of the mix. This is especially true if her behavior is escalating at a party or exciting event. I am fully on board with this move. But not as a punishment. It’s easier for a child to de-escalate without a lot of extra external stimuli. When any sort of wonky behavior starts up, remember: the child is experiencing a shit ton of internal stimuli. She is reacting to that.

5. Process the emotions.

Once your child is out of the mix and starts to de-escalate, you want to address the feelings. Your child acted on a big feeling or emotion. If he was hitting a friend, he was most likely frustrated or angry. Remember: the behavior is the “symptom,” the feeling is the “disease.” Use as few words as possible.

6. Leave.

Whenever they’re possible, I’m a huge fan of natural consequences. In many instances, that simply means leaving. Leaving the party, the store, the park, the friend’s house. If your child is displaying angry, frustrated, or aggressive behavior, oftentimes it means you should leave.

For more parenting tips check out OH CRAP! I HAVE A TODDLER by Jamie Glowacki. 


For more on Tips on Life & Love: A Relaxation Technique for Stressed-out Parents


Excerpted from Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler by Jamie Glowacki. Copyright © 2019 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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