When Time-Outs Don't Work

This old standby isn't effective for every kid. Here are seven other discipline tactics you can try.

Logical Consequences

boy sitting on the stairs being punished

Fancy Photography/Veer

In my family, time-outs work so well that my 4-year-old recently told my 6-year-old to take a time-out for hitting -- and he did. I'm lucky, I know. Not everyone finds this discipline tactic so tried-and-true.

"For some children, time-outs are a joke," says Larry Koenig, Ph.D., author of Smart Discipline: Fast, Lasting Solutions for Your Peace of Mind and Your Child's Self-Esteem. "They either won't stay put, or they get into a power struggle with their parents, or they couldn't care less about having to sit in a chair for ten minutes. In cases like that, the time-out doesn't modify misbehavior one bit."

If you're among those who haven't had success with time-outs, you need to find an alternative discipline strategy that will get results. Remember, your ultimate goal is to change the way your child acts -- not to make him miserable. So gauge your child's temperament, then choose a technique that seems most likely to work for him. Here are some parent-tested discipline tools you can try.

Logical consequences. Molly Bardsley, of Tucker, Georgia, will end a playdate if either her daughter Zoe, 6, or the playmate whines or argues. At the park, she'll warn Zoe that they'll have to leave if she strays too far from the playground area. "She follows my rules because she knows that I'm going to enforce them," Bardsley says.

Matching the punishment to the crime helps your child connect actions and results and teaches responsibility. When you use this technique, it's best to explain the consequence ahead of time, giving your child ample warning. But when you haven't foreseen the misbehavior, think of an appropriate consequence connected to the infraction -- and enforce it quickly.

"It can't come too long after the misbehavior," says Thomas Phelan, Ph.D., author of "I Never Get Anything!": How to Keep Kids From Running Your Life. For instance, if your son is racing up and down the aisles at the grocery store, don't tell him that "next time" he'll have to ride in the shopping cart; put him in it right away.

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