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Toy Time-Out

Putting a toy in time out sounds silly but this is an alternative punishment for children (siblings or friends) who have trouble sharing. If you see continuous arguments over toys then you can explain to the children that if they are not able to come up with a way to get along or share the item then it will have to go to time out. Pick a spot where the toy will be put and a specified amount of time. If the children decide to share then great your job is done. If the children can’t stop fighting over the toy then you can gently explain that the toy is causing too much fighting and needs to be in time out for a while. Take the toy and quietly put it in the time out spot (preferably where the children can’t reach it). Then go about you business. Later take the toy out of time out, but if the children have moved on to a new game or are getting along you can simply add the toy back to the toy bin or other place it is usually kept. If the children want to play with it you can give a short reminder that if the toy causes too much trouble it will have to be put in time out again and the next time it will be for the rest of the day. This approach usually makes children figure out how to share the toy so that it won’t be taken again.


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Parent’s Time Out

You might say, “What how can this be? It’s already hard to get a time-out to work for my kids and now you want parents to take a time out!” Yes, that’s exactly what I am suggesting. How many times have you over reacted because your anger got in the way? Often parents punish while they are not thinking clearly because of their emotions.   One way to stop this from happening and set a good example for your child is to take a time-out. This is a break for you so you can calm down, gather your thoughts, and then come up with a reasonable solution. Stating to a child that you are going to take a break to calm down does not mean they get out of being punished. You can even state that you will deal with him/her when you get back. Then remove yourself from the situation. Go in your room, bathroom, somewhere calm. Take a few breaths and think about how you want to handle the situation.

Often our own beliefs get in the way of reacting rationally at first. For example your child might refuse to eat something at dinnertime and this angers you. Your beliefs about it might be that they are privileged to have something to eat and refusing to eat is spoiled behavior or that your child will not get the nutrients s/he needs to grow. Your beliefs are what influence your thoughts/expectations and then lead to your emotions (i.e. anger). Overreacting often intensifies the situation and causes more problems instead of achieving your original goal of having your child eat dinner. Instead, if you take a time-out it helps you to calmly come back to the table and deal with the situation. This also serves as a role model for your child who then sees that you were angry but you handled it well and were able to calm yourself down. Making a statement that you are now feeling calm and able to deal with their behavior lets them know that you are in control and also can be angry without overreacting. Sometimes you might even decide that the behavior does not need a punishment but just a new outlook.

In the future you can ask your child to use the same method of calming down before their behavior gets out of control. The key is before they are out of control. It doesn’t work if you wait too long. When you see your child start to get worked up, offer a quite space so s/he can color, relax, play quietly, etc. until they are noticeably calmer.   Then tell them you are glad they were able to calm down. Once everyone in the family is able to use this method it will lead to a much more positive outcome and help you get what you wanted out of the situation in the first place.

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