See our thoughts on disciplining children. Is a ‘Time-Out’ the best replacement for smacking?


When do children learn boundaries? How do you introduce discipline to a toddler who’s at the age where they think it’s funny to run around your kitchen laughing at their own fart noises? Who knows? I certainly don’t.  I’m just afraid of being the parent of a 5 year old in the supermarket who thinks it’s ok to scream the store down running around doing whatever they please while ignoring their parents.

For many British born West Indians the request to ‘go upstairs and get my belt’ may bring back memories of the consequences of unruly behaviour during your childhood and early teens.  I however, have concluded that times have clearly moved on from those days as conversation about beating your child in the coffee room at work is likely to result in more than raised eyebrows. Also, it might not be the best way to discipline a 2 year old. My thoughts are that if you are trying to teach your child that violence is wrong, hitting them is probably not the most effective way to get your point across.

The challenging behaviours I’m facing on a daily basis have led me to consider the topic of discipline. My wife and I have been discussing the topic of disciplining children for a while, however my thoughts have been particularly focussed since my wife had a discussion with nursery that began with; ‘So, he’s been a bit silly today’.  This is of course code for; ’Your son was a little shit today’. His nursery is very diplomatic with their choice of words.  Other adjectives they have used to describe his behaviour include ‘boisterous’, when he was playing rough and pushing other children over, ‘a bit odd’ when he was holding food in his mouth for up to an hour at a time. That was followed by; ‘Yes, we are always sure to check his mouth before he takes a nap’.  My favourite has to be; ‘Yes, he’s very independent’. This was immediately after he swiftly told a member of staff; ‘Nooo’ whilst frantically waving his hands signalling for her to move away from him. He thinks he doesn’t need help doing things, although at home, when he puts both legs through one side of a nappy and pulls the nappy up sideways exposing both his bottom and his miniature snake he usually realises that the help of an experienced adult is needed.

On the day that he had been being ‘silly’ at nursery he had tried to throw his food everywhere whilst at the dinner table. Potentially a very amusing game if you are two, but no other two year olds were doing this and it’s clearly poor dinner etiquette. ‘Jelly legs’ is another interesting behaviour we have been met with. We decided to let him walk around the supermarket with us instead of pushing him around in his pram.  One minute into our supermarket shop he just sat down. When we tried to move him we were met with ‘jelly legs’. My morning routine getting him ready has also encountered a few difficulties.  On occasion, he might decide that he wants to have Wotsits for breakfast. Sometimes he would prefer to play in the garden, opposed to getting ready for nursery. Most days he’d rather not take a bath and everyday he doesn’t want to brush his teeth.  This is just the beginning.

The real challenges begin when he displays random animal like behaviour. The other week, all he wanted to do was bite our sofa. I’d pull him off, move him away, ask him to stop and he would run straight back and start gnawing at our brand new sofa. Occasionally when he gets over excited he will try to hit or even bite my wife. Bottom line is, I can’t leave him to be a mum beating 2 year old who lives on a diet of Wotsits and cake who has lost most of his baby teeth before the age of 3. I just don’t think it’ll work. Between the above and asking him to go upstairs and get my belt (no way he would understand that instruction by the way), there has to be a happy medium.

Discipline had to be introduced. Unfortunately a stern word with a finger point just wasn’t doing the trick. He just laughs in my face if I do that. Somehow I don’t think he will have the same fear of me that my siblings and I had if my mum told us she would tell our dad when he got home if we didn’t behave.  I learned the answer from a program called Supernanny.  I learned about the trusted timeout method. All I have to do is pick him up, put him in a corner sat down facing the wall and combine with a stern word and he knows he’s in big trouble. I find a minute of timeout to be a powerful behaviour modifying punishment for our two year old. Although the threat of being told off by his dad is unlikely to put the fear in him, the threat of a timeout if he continues to bash the TV remote against the wall is a powerful threat to make him pause to consider if his chosen activity is worth the trouble. Sometimes of course he weighs up the punishment versus whatever mischief he is engaged in and considers that a minute or two of timeout is worth it.  Even so, at least the time out has helped him move on from biting the sofa…. I think.

What are your thoughts on disciplining children? What do you do when time-outs don’t work?