When Time-Outs Don't Work

Redirecting Their Energy

Monetary fine. If a child is old enough for an allowance -- usually around age 5 -- he may be old enough to pay the price for bad behavior. (This works best if kids are required to use their own money for toys or arcade tokens.) Post a chart showing how much various infractions cost -- a nickel for not putting away his toys, a quarter for fighting with his brother. Some families have a jar in the kitchen, and every time a child uses a bad word or hits or whines, the child must put a coin into the jar.

Additional chores. Having to do tasks they don't like often helps keep kids in line. "Instead of getting into a power struggle, say, 'Come over here -- I have laundry for you to sort or wastebaskets that need emptying,' " Dr. Koenig suggests. Parents can also require extra chores outside the child's usual list to make amends for bad behavior. When my 4- and 6-year-old sons fight, I often send one to their playroom and the other to their bedroom to sort toys into their appropriate containers. Post a list of three or four particularly unappealing chores, like sweeping the floor or weeding the garden, so kids will know ahead of time what's in store if they misbehave.

Redirecting their energy. Sometimes, removing your child from the scene may be enough to help him calm down and recognize the problem. "Just take a walk with your child," Dr. Koenig says. "Don't harp on the problem or lecture, just walk. And at some point during the walk, say, 'Hey, Ben, I really love you, but you cannot hit your brother.'"

Where's the punishment in that, you ask? There isn't one. But since your real goal with any form of discipline is to throw cold water on a heated situation and make your child stop the misbehavior, such low-key techniques sometimes are enough to get the job done.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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