Discipline, Not Time Out

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Submitted by Kids ‘R’ Kids of Atlanta, GA.

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Parents frequently ask professional childcare providers and experts, “When do I start disciplining?” or “How should I discipline?”  The answer is not easy; it’s both simple and complex. Childcare experts recommend you start disciplining a child as soon as she can understand what you are doing and can learn why you are doing it.  Experts say this occurs usually around 18 months, although some children may be closer to 2 years of age before discipline can become effective.

Let’s discuss two types of discipline.  The first type of discipline involves changing behavior that is undesirable, making sure that the behavior you are curbing isn’t just part of the normal developmental range of behaviors.  An example would be if your child ran into a busy street. We all know running into a busy road can have serious consequences, so this kind of behavior has to be stopped. But if she is bouncing up and down waiting for her ice cream, this is normal behavior that does not need to be responded to in a negative way.  Experts recommend that when a child is behaving inappropriately, parents and childcare providers should use redirection, not time out.  Get the child interested in another activity. This technique works when your enthusiasm for the new activity is used. Sometimes giving the child a choice of two new activities is very effective as well.  These are activities you have chosen ahead of time, and either one will work for you, but the child has the ultimate say, and this empowers her self-esteem.

“Time-out” or “reflection” does not work at this age because the child does not understand how to reflect on the bad behavior.  Your child’s brain has not matured enough to understand the concept or “time-out” or “reflection”. “Time-out” only gives the parent a break from the behavior and it teaches the child nothing in the long run.

The second type of discipline is more difficult to teach. It must be reinforced at home, in school and with childcare services.  It involves training your child to direct and manage her behavior toward reaching a specific goal. That goal might be mastery of a skill, success in sports, arts, or a craft.  The attainment of any of these goals requires discipline. Sometimes a very talented child may not have the discipline to train for the thing she desires. At the same time, a less talented child may reach a desired goal because she has learned how to discipline herself. Self-discipline becomes even more important when a child becomes a young adult. It is the disciplined teenager who can get good grades in school and can successfully resist the attractions of drugs, skipping school, and other forms of juvenile delinquency.

How do you teach this second form of discipline?  ?It is best to start as early as possible with correction of dangerous or unwanted behaviors. Encourage your child not to give up on a task just because it is hard or takes too long – and make sure that the childcare services you use adhere to this philosophy as well. Show your child that practice and hard work pay off with increased rewards.

These rewards need to be very tangible at first, such as praise, a sticker or stamp. Later, the satisfaction of “doing well” will be its own reward. Don’t forget to use both types of discipline that were mentioned above. And remember all members of your childcare team must apply each form of discipline consistently. The first type of discipline keeps your child out of trouble while the second teaches her how to live successfully. Both are very important and require your active involvement as a parent.


Kids ‘R’ Kids believes that happy, loved, connected children are destined for success in every facet of their lives. Our most cherished principle, “Hug First, Then Teach,” defines every aspect of who we are at Kids ‘R’ Kids. When it comes to teaching, Kids ‘R’ Kids understands the importance of involving families with their child’s developmental milestones and accomplishments. We hope you will drop by for a tour at one of our many locations in the Atlanta area. You will find a list of our numerous locations at www.kidsrkidsatlanta.com or on Facebook www.facebook.com/kidsrkidscorporate and Twitter https://twitter.com/KidsRKidsCorp.

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