Be thoughtful about your reaction as a parent.
If your child acts out, slow down, count to 10 and be thoughtful about what you’re doing, Sara advises. She suggests asking yourself—before taking action—if your reaction will make it more or less likely your child will repeat the behavior again. In the end, your action might not be perfect, “but if you’re thoughtful about it, you’re going to do it in a good way that’s going to be positive.”
Dr. Pete says doing a time-out for the sake of doing a time-out, for example, is “not likely to be nearly as effective” as being thoughtful in your actions. He says the entire process can happen within a matter of seconds, once parents get into the habit.
Look to time-ins more than time-outs.
While a time-out isolates your child for a certain period as punishment for bad behavior, a time-in gives parents and children the opportunity to share quality time and a positive experience.
According to Sara, how the two work together is “really crucial.” She says the positive relationship you cultivate with your child during a time-in “gives you a favorable advantage” when working with other strategies, like a time-out.
“Your child will react more positively to your directions and reinforcements, will feel comfortable opening up his or her feelings to you, and will feel safe and secure in the parent-child relationship,” Sara says.
Save yelling for emergencies.
Studies have reported that yelling at kids increases their symptoms of depression and problems with behavior. However, Sara believes yelling has its place in parenting, such as in emergencies. It should be used to say, “stop what you’re doing right now,” in situations impacting your child’s safety, such as playing too close to the road.
To make sure yelling doesn’t lose its effect, Sara tells parents who have a tendency to yell to “change the times you use it and try to reserve it for only those exacerbating circumstances where you really need it.” And for non-emergency situations when you may want to yell, she suggests lowering your voice and speaking very slowly to your child instead.