Let me start by saying not putting my kids in “timeout” doesn’t mean I don’t hold them accountable or discipline them. I absolutely do.
My house is not a free-for-all. When it comes to discipline, I do it in a way that works for us. That is, kids AND parents.
I spent the majority of my childhood in timeout.
My teenage years were littered with the phrase, “you’re grounded.” As soon as I got my freedom back, it was just a matter of time before I landed myself back in solitary confinement. It was a vicious cycle that I brought on myself. I don’t blame my parents for grounding me. They had tried other routes like taking away my privileges to AOL Instant Messenger (yes, I’m dating myself) and taking away my cell phone. My all-time favorite move was when my mom ripped the cable cord out of my television and the wall. She threatened to take away the tv, but when I reminded her I bought it with my hard-earned babysitting money, there went the cable.
It’s funny because when I was pregnant with my first-born, I had all these ideas of how I would parent and specifically discipline my kids. I’m the oldest child in my family, and my husband is the baby of his, so we came from different parenting styles. We knew we wanted to try to find some common ground. All of our plans went out the window the first time we felt the wrath of our opinionated and assertive toddler. I felt my blood boil as the snarky comments came out of her tiny mouth. What came out of mine? “TIMEOUT YOUNG LADY.”
Just like my parents, I needed a moment away from this child, who I assumed had been taken over by some kind of monster spirit. And, just like it did for me, the timeout just made her madder. It seemed like the days we put her in timeout were the days that there were multiple behavioral issues, and the timeout was almost never-ending. In true first-born form, we did a little trial and error to see if we could make the timeout work. We changed the name to reframe it (I’m a marketer and can’t ever shake the marketing spin) to “take a minute,” but it didn’t work. We tried different durations and timing options, but it kept landing us in a lose-lose situation with an unhappy child and even unhappier parents.
So, what did I do? I went to Pinterest. DUH. I also talked to my therapist. My second-born is in speech and occupational therapy and has pretty bad outbursts, so I spoke to his therapists as well. What we ended up with was a combination of a few different techniques. We call them our calm down or quiet time boxes. The boxes are filled with a craft or activity used to redirect the negative behavior and calm down to talk about the real issue. Let’s be honest; the tantrum over the toy is never really about the toy.
I have three boxes and a drawer full of materials that I got from the dollar store. My kids are four and two, so I try to keep the boxes age-appropriate. In one box, there are pipe cleaners and beads to make bracelets. Another has coffee filters, markers, and ribbon to make different creations, and the third box has paper dolls and construction paper to make doll clothes. I also bought glue sticks, safety scissors, post-it notes, pencils, and pencil sharpeners, and it all cost about 20 bucks.
My magical drawer is also home to my latest Scholastic purchase. These books have various themes, and the best part is my kids have never seen them. A new book is excellent for calming down. It’s a quiet activity and redirects their attention. Then, the book will make its way into our regular book rotation.
To be honest, I was afraid that my kids might misbehave on purpose to get a calm down box, but it hasn’t happened. Does this method work correctly every single time? No. But, it works for us, which is what counts.
Calm down boxes also work for moms, in case you were wondering. Mine is stocked with a book, coloring books, markers, and wine, of course.