Providing your child's emotions a safe place-an alternative to time-out

If you’re struggling with disciplining your child you may have already tried using “time out” to resolve unwanted behavior. Time out has been a popular tool since the 1960’s but studies have shown that time out is not always effective for every child.

According to Mary C. Lamia on, young children may see time out as a form of punishment; which is not the goal for our little learners.  As parents and caregivers, we want our discipline strategies to teach and guide our children to positively handle their emotions. If you are like many who have been unsuccessful with the use of time out, here is a strategy you can implement at home or in your classroom.

Rather than asking our children to stop their emotional outbursts, we should teach them what their emotions are and how to handle them. Let them know that crying is acceptable because it helps release those negative feelings. Create a safe place in your home that can serve as a welcoming area for your child to handle their emotions. You can include pillows, stuffed animals and pictures to direct your child to positive things they can do to regulate their behavior.

Discuss this space with your child. Show them what they can and can’t do in this space. (i.e. It’s ok to feel sad, tired or angry. You can scream, cry or take a break when you’re upset, but you must do that in your safe place. You cannot hit, throw or make others feel bad when you’re upset).

Be consistent and assertive when implementing this strategy. Be sure that this space is reserved for your child to use. As you see your child’s emotions come out remind them to use their safe space.

Teaching young children that it is acceptable to feel all types of emotions and what they can do to handle feeling them is our main goal as parents and caregivers. We want them to learn what to do in life, rather than reprimanding them for what not to do. Not only is positive guidance effective in dealing with direct behavior, but it also gives them the opportunity to take charge of their emotions. They begin to recognize their feelings and, as they grow, they will know what to do in every situation.