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How I decided to give “Time Out” a break

14 Nov 2013 – 02:56 PM EST

I grew up in the last generation where it was completely okay to spank your children. Personally, I’d always thought child experts went a little far with their warnings about the damages of corporal punishment and their support for the newly-favored “time out.” I even briefly wondered if they all had stock in a company that makes singular tiny chairs and stools.

Because I’d been hit as a child, and I came out all right, I assumed I would probably dole out corporal punishment as events warranted, using it sparingly enough for maximum effectiveness.

There was just one problem: After my daughter was born, I couldn’t dream of striking her. So, as she entered her troublesome toddler phase, I readied a corner specifically for time out. Ultimately, though it was an abject failure.

It would go like this:

Me: That’s it! If you keep this up, you are going to get a time out!

Madison: Time out? Yaaaaay!

My toddler would then dance around, exhibiting the same level of joy she would have if I’d just announced we were going out for ice cream or that Elmo was real and coming to visit. Had I done my research, I would have learned that it is well known, including among child psychologists, that passive punishment isn’t effective. Instead, I felt defeated, destined to raise an undisciplined genius who was destined to become a super villain or — even worse — a career politician.

Eventually, I thought back to my own childhood and the punishments I hated the most. Sitting in the corner didn’t work on me, either, since I would just daydream the time away. Instead, my folks would really stick it to me with good, old-fashioned hard labor.

Now Madison was smart and capable, but as a toddler she wasn’t quite ready to clean the cat box or cut the grass. So I started with a takeaway punishment and made her do all the work. I would give her a box and tell her to put whatever toys she was playing with into it. Then I would take them away, but keep them in sight. When she’d ask for the toys back, I would tell her she had to “earn” them back with simple chores.

While this won’t work for everyone, I developed a system that worked for my specific child. Based on my own experiences. I also made sure my daughter understood the rules and, as best as she could, why they were important.

The lesson I learned is that no discipline method is one-size-fits-all. Kids respond best to the methods that appeal to their own individual needs, and it’s on us as parents to figure out what those are.

When it comes to discipline, what works in your house?