Why We’re Stopping Time Out

I read an article about time out this morning that one of my friends had shared on Facebook and it really made me stop and think.

It was about how punishing your child doesn’t teach them to be accountable for their actions.

Before becoming a mum I thought that being a parent would instantly give you something in common with every other parent but after Cherry was born I quickly realised that in actual fact there are lots of different ways to bring up your children as well as a lot of judgement and criticism about who is doing things the ‘best’ or ‘right’ way.

I’ve always tried not to do judge or criticise the way others do things. At the end of the day as long as you are doing what you believe to be the best thing for you and your family than surely that is the most important thing?

Recently I haven’t felt like I’ve been doing the best thing.

Since Tiger’s arrival Cherry’s behaviour has become more and more challenging. Before he was born I’d never even had to think about punishment but within the first few months of his life she started to get violent towards him and I didn’t know what to do so I started putting her in the kitchen or hallway for three minutes. I know it was her way of expressing anger at the situation and with everything else I made exceptions but I just couldn’t bear it when she kicked him or scratched him so felt this was the right thing to do.

why we are stopping time out

 Since she turned three I have been putting her out there so much more. It’s not just for hurting Tiger now (which thankfully doesn’t happen very often) but for a lot more. Not listening to me, deliberately doing things I ask her not to, slamming the gate at the top of the stairs on purpose to wake up Tiger, the list goes on.

The thing is though that it doesn’t work. It’s not stopping her doing the things she’s put out there for and the threat of it doesn’t change her behaviour in any way.

Lately I haven’t been the parent I want to be. I’ve been shouting too much, getting stressed too much and not enjoying my days as much as I should be. Tiger still waking up so much at night means I’m absolutely shattered all the time which doesn’t help but I have decided to stop using time out as a way of trying to control Cherry’s behaviour.

Mr C does this thing when we have an argument and it drives me insane. When I’m frustrated or angry about something and start raising my voice in desperation to get my point across he tells me he can’t listen to me when I’m talking like that. He cuts me off, blocks me out, makes no attempt to try and understand where I’m coming from and it makes me feel ridiculously angry and really frustrated which I’m guessing is exactly how Cherry feels when I put her in time out.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the terrible three’s. I guess it’s an age where they are becoming more independent, trying to learn their own minds and test us to see how strong we are. It’s been such a shock for me, especially as she was so good all the way through her two’s but I’m determined to find a way of dealing with it that doesn’t leave us all feeling rubbish.

I want to start acting out of love and not anger.

I want to try and understand her behaviour more.

I want to start acting on signs she will be acting up shortly like when she’s bored or tired.

I want to try and do all the things I need to do in the evening so I’m not feeling stressed about trying to fit it into my day.

I want to take responsibility for the times when she wants me to be strong and kind but instead I get cross and shout.

I’m not sure it will be easy but since Tiger arrived I’ve realised that being a parent is anything but easy!

So from now on I won’t be putting Cherry into time out.


  1. Lucy

    30 January

    I totally get how you feel. I find myself shouting and using time out a lot. It doesn’t work.

    I don’t really know what to do though. My biggest frustration is the kids arguing/fighting…they shout at each other and I shout at them. Vicious circle really and I’m trying to b calmer. Distract them

  2. fritha

    30 January

    aww I totally hear where you are coming from! I know they do timeout’s at nursery and Wilf has only ever had one (for hitting another child) and I was ok with that. He’s never really been a hitter so I figured that being giving a time out once in a blue moon meant he would realise that behaviour was wrong. We probably give him one every fortnight and we try and explain he need to think about why ‘throwing a car at daddy’s head’ was not ok (especially being the third time he had done it) and then we’d give him a minute and he would come back and say sorry etc..but I guess I also know that at 2 he probably doesn’t actually realise why he was sent out there. We just think it works as he doesn’t do it again..but that bit you said about being cut off really made me think as that’s totally how we must be making them think! It’s super tricky though isn’t it! especially when you are in the moment and they have done something that’s upsetting! xx

  3. Notmyyearoff

    30 January

    Lack of sleep is an absolute killer. I start the day off so grumpy whenever I had a bad night and that was it. Whole day out the window and I may as well have been stomping around. Time out doesn’t work on z one bit. He just sits there enjoying himself oblivious to the fact that its punishment. Then e says “now your turn mummy” or “now say ‘I’m not your friend mummy!!'” ….argggh! Recently I’ve found if I say “now that wasn’t very nice was it?”…it works a bit better. Depends what time of day it is though. Evening times I may snap first! Threenagers are hard. If I say one thing he’ll do the exact opposite as if to test me!

    • Jessica Cherry

      30 January

      That’t exactly what Cherry does! I have even taken to asking her not to do something that I want her to do just to get her to do it! x

  4. Polly Davies

    30 January

    such a hard one isn’t it? We don’t do timeout generally… it doesn’t seem to have much effect… and I hate feeling cut off when I’m angry, upset..

    My bigger one’s do get sent to their room if they are being rude or hurting their sisters. But at 10 and 7 they DO understand the reasoning, I’ll explain to them first, and if they can’t change their behaviour then I’ll ask them to go chill out somewhere else. I think sometimes they need space to calm down and get away from who was making them angry

    • Jessica Cherry

      30 January

      Yes I totally agree that when they are older and understand more then you can explain why it’s a good idea to go and chill out somewhere for a little while. Sometimes I go off for a bath to chill out when I’m getting annoyed during an argument with Mr C and it always helps. I guess the main difference is being old enough to understand 🙂 x

  5. Alexandra Mercer

    30 January

    It’s such a frustrating time to be going through but I promise you it does get so much easier, the older they get the easier it is to talk with them. Once Cherry can talk and express her feelings then all this unwanted behaviour will be a distant memory x

    • Jessica Cherry

      30 January

      Thank you, that is so good to hear! I guess this is just that really hard age where they are in-between being a toddler and a young child. I’ve managed to not shout today and it has made such a difference, it’s just so hard sometimes when you have so much going on to be able to stop and think how to speak calmly! x

  6. Hurrah For Gin

    30 January

    I could have written this post Jess – We are experiencing exactly the same. F was fab through his two’s but 3’s is 10 x worse, also aggravated by the arrival of an unwanted family member (from his perspective!).
    I feel like i’m doing it all wrong and that nothing seems to work, we are currently doing a reward chart to try and makes it more about the positives but he isn’t even that bothered about that! Let me know if you do find a magic solution but until then at least know you are not alone xx

    • Jessica Cherry

      30 January

      Thanks lovely. Three’s are definitely a testing time! Cherry was the same, good all through the two’s then the arrival of J and turning three changed everything. I’ve definitely noticed a difference today and I haven’t needed to shout at all which has been so much nicer, I hated shouty mum I was turning into and it wasn’t even helping! Cherry starting to throw her noodle across the table did nearly crack me but one day in and it wasn’t too bad! x

  7. Oh my god Jess, I have been planning to blog exactly this. I must have read the same articles and resolved to do exactly the same.

    I have started reading a lot of gentle parenting articles recently and it really makes sense to me.

    About a week ago we gave up using the naughty step and resolved to stop trying to be ‘controlling’ with our toddler. I completely agree that I need to act out of love and understand her more.

    I have started to think of everything as how it must be / feel for her and how she is at an age where her emotions just get too much for her. It makes me so much more empathetic in dealing with her.

    I have been making sure every time I tell her not to do something I don’t raise my voice at all and just explain it to her like ‘let’s not pull caitlyn like that because it might hurt her, shall we go and do a puzzle now?’ and just finding her distractions and letting it go. She doesn’t get upset or embarrassed or do it again for a reaction and genuinely just listens to what I say and agrees now! So much more positive.

    I have been bad for getting annoyed at her when I want to answer an email or get something done and they just won’t allow it but I’ve started to just switch off the laptop and go back to it later, it’s not their fault I have other things to do and they come first. Every morning Caitlyn naps when we are at home I now make an effort to do something like a craft or play dough with Lissy now and she is really loving the one to one time, and I often find when I get her started on an activity it actually gives me the time I need to tidy the breakfast pots away or answer a couple of emails.

    With explaining everything though so many times I have also realised that I get annoyed with her for things that are unfair, like making a mess when really it’s me who has the problem and needs to just chill out about it. And I have 🙂

    Sorry for the essay but I really feel that it is one of the best parenting decisions we have made and it really going to shape how we raise the girls 🙂 Has been the least stressful few weeks I’ve had, because I feel not letting myself get stressed with them makes everyone happier, and I don’t think back with guilt about how I could have handled things better.

    Hope it goes well for you xxx

    • Jessica Cherry

      30 January

      Thank you! Today was the first day and the difference has been remarkable. I totally agree with everything you said and have been ignoring my emails, explaining everything calmly and trying to see things from her point of view. We’ve actually had a nice calm day for the first time in ages, and I haven’t needed to shout at all. She even agreed with me when I explained why she shouldn’t swing on the freezer door! And she’s been nice to J. She did start flinging her dinner across the table which nearly stressed me out but I took it off her before shouting. Now I know it’s possible to do it without time out I won’t be looking back 🙂 xx

  8. Mummy Glitzer

    30 January

    We have also found the 3s so much harder than the 2s. Whilst we’ve not had the arrival of a sibling, we have, as you know, had a lot of upheaval and so we have also figured that part of his behaviour has been due to that.

    I have recently tried to put myself in Harry’s shoes and it IS hard because we are that much more able to verbalise and process our feelings and thoughts.

    • Jessica Cherry

      31 January

      I think kids pick up on anything going on so easily and it really does affect them .It is so hard though as like you said they aren’t really old enough to understand things properly. Every age seems to come with a whole new set of challenges! x

  9. Circus Queen

    30 January

    I so hear what you’re saying and love how you’re saying it, especially with comparing the way Cherry feels to the way you feel. There’s so much empathy there.

    We agreed very early on with Talitha that timeouts and “punishments” weren’t something we could philosophically get on board with. It just doesn’t agree with the way we see children as people. We’ve come at it from different places in terms of our upbringings and I was definitely brought up in a more black and white way while Laurence had a gentler parenting.

    Talitha hasn’t warranted anything like that anyway but lately she has started the whole not doing what I ask her to and deliberately testing my boundaries by doing the opposite of what I say. Some of this is the age and some is no doubt the big change happening in her life. When we’ve babysat older children who’ve been more challenging, though, we’ve done “time-in” where one of us sits with them until they calm down and then talk a bit about how they’re feeling and what’s happened so we can get a picture of what’s going on. Laurence is soooo much better at this than I am. Absolutely kids do a lot of stuff to get attention – it’s remembering that that means they’re expressing an actual *need* for attention, which is so hard when the situation just frustrates the hell out of us! And I’m so much quicker to lose it since falling pregnant too.

    Two fantastic reads I’d really recommend if you want to think more about alternatives are the Aha Parenting website and Sarah Ockwell Smith’s blog. I’m reading her book Toddlercalm at the moment too, which has some great stuff. I don’t personally take everything they say sort of wholesale but there’s lots that just makes you think, you know?

    • Circus Queen

      30 January

      Oh and just to add, Toddlercalm covers up to age 5. Aha Parenting goes all the way to the teen years.

    • Jessica Cherry

      31 January

      Aha Parenting was where I read this actually! It’s fab and will definitely be reading some more. I wish I’d done it before J was born but I know there’s no point regretting anything now. The good news is that the difference has been unbelievable. I haven’t needed to shout at all for the last two days and she’s been like a different child. I told her she wouldn’t ever be put in time out again and she was so happy, bless her. I’ve been making sure I explain everything to her clearly and can talk her out of nearly any situation just be being calm. Of course I won’t always be calm but it’s so good to know things can be different 🙂 x

  10. Carie

    30 January

    Being three is just plain hard I think; all those big emotions and no way to manage them. I read a lovely analogy once, that if adults are a two storey house with the ground floor for practical feelings and the first floor for emotions, with space for them to run around, toddlers are a bungalow – everything just explodes straight up the chimney because they don’t have the brain space to process it.

    We never found the traditional version of time outs sat well with us so we have our own version, it’s called a time out but if Kit gets one it means she has to come and sit with us, have a hug and just take a moment to calm down; it’s more about changing the situation than any sort of punishment and it seems to work for her – that or (somewhat bizarrely) having her hold my hand and jump up and down on the spot ten times – it seems to give her mind the space to reset!

    • Jessica Cherry

      31 January

      Ah that’s such a lovely idea Carie and I think I will definitely give the jumping one a go too. Since I told Cherry she didn’t have to go on time out again she has been like a different child, I’ve been explaining things to her in a really calm way instead and she’s responded so well. I wish I knew more about it before J was born but I just didn’t know what to do, oh well at least I can change it now x

  11. Jessica Cherry

    31 January

    Ah I agree with so much of what you’re saying and I really wish I had started reading up on all of this before I gave birth to J. I had no idea how to deal with things in a way that I felt comfortable with and ended up just doing the time out thing which I don’t think was right and led to a chain of events that led us to where we have been lately which hasn’t been very nice. I told Cherry yesterday morning that we won’t be putting her on time out anymore and she was so happy bless her. Since then I’ve made a real effort to give her a lot more of my proper, full attention and explain things carefully to her to stop her getting angry and it’s helped so much. She hasn’t done anything which has made me even want to shout since I changed my approach and we’ve all been having a much nicer time. It is hard as I’ve had to stop trying to fit anything else into my day, like emails / work etc but of course she comes first and I feel sad I haven’t realised it until now. But like you said I should stop feeling guilty and just try to change things from now on. This parenting thing is hard! x

  12. Lucy

    25 February

    I think as parents it’s always hard to know whether we’re doing the right thing. And that nagging parental guilt makes us question every decision we make anyway.
    Since the little guy has been playing up more (what is it about turning 3???) we’ve actually been using time out a lot less. When I was teaching, we always used to talk about the hierarchy of behaviour management, and the fact that you always need somewhere to go if the behaviour gets worse. And as time out is kind of our top of the pile punishment, the trickier he is the less we use it and its reserved for those times when he really needs it; as in he’s lost the plot and needs to calm down. I do the same with him, and I look for the times when he might be about to be tricky and try and nip those in the bud, and everyone seems to be happier with that arrangement.
    Like you say, we all have to do what works for us in our family and what feels like the best for our children. Fingers crossed we all come out the other side with our sanity intact. x

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