The ever-changing stages of punishment

“You used to give a lot of time outs.”

“I did?”

My sister was flipping through the photo books I make every year for the kids on their birthdays. She pointed to photo after photo with a toddler pouting on a little chair in our dining room, or standing in the corner with their hands on their hips.

She was right — I did used to put the kids in time out a lot. I remember depositing them in the spot and crossing the main level to the microwave where I’d set the timer. One minute for every year, so a two-year-old got two minutes. Often they’d stomp their way out of the spot and I’d have to bring them back, firmly, and reset the timer. Good times.

Why was it my go-to? Maybe because it’s really good for cranky toddlers, since it’s quick and nearby. Hit someone, throw something at someone’s head, scream: proceed immediately to time out. It removed them from the fun and gave them time to calm down. It worked!

(You also can’t really let them out of your sight at that age. My kids were quick to scale furniture or rub styling paste into their carpet if they were left unattended.)

I don’t know when or why we stopped using time out as the ultimate punishment. These days, our default seems to be the classic “go to your room” method. Yes, they have toys in there so it’s not a bad place to be. But it’s still removing them from the fun and getting them to simmer down in a quiet space.

I don’t set a timer since they aren’t on the same level to see it or hear it. I usually keep them in there for a couple of minutes — longer, if I’m washing dishes and really enjoying the peace — but there’s an official penalty timer in my head.

Stomp up the stairs? That’s an extra few minutes. Slam your door? Add five minutes. Barrel around your room angrily, making as much noise as possible? It doesn’t look good for you, kid …

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene …

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2 Comments on “The ever-changing stages of punishment

  1. We used time outs well into childhood….for the life of me I can't remember when that stopped…..probably when loss of screen privileges took hold. Now it's the car (for Anthony, anyways).

  2. Hahaha great article! They did seem to be in time-outs a fair amount!

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