While I agree that time outs are better then spanking or yelling at children, I think time outs are somewhat useless. I overheard a woman on her phone saying "It's been a lousy day. Max was in time out 5 times today." Umm, do you think time outs are maybe not helping Max to behave differently? I have also seen parents spend a tremendous amount of energy getting their children to stay in time out. "If you get up from that chair one more time you will be spending 5 more minutes in it". The child runs out of the chair and the very angry parent runs after the child.
I truly understand parents being frustrated and cranky and needing a break from their child, but when a child is misbehaving that is precisely the time a child needs us most. I don't understand why it is considered normal to disconnect and push away our children when connection and compassion is needed. The child who keeps hitting his sister is angry and annoyed about something. Sitting in time out is not going to teach the child how to express his angry differently. The child only knows the parent is angry at him and now he feels angry towards the parent for punishing him. The expression on the child's face in the above photo says it all. ** He's angry and resentful. He's not sitting there thinking about how it was wrong to hit his sister. He's thinking his sister got him in trouble again.
It's much more productive to acknowledge the child's anger, while limiting his poor behavior. "I see how angry you are at Annie. Hitting is not allowed in this family. Tell her in words how angry you are." If he hits again, you can tell him "I see it's difficult for you to stop hitting Annie. You can come here and talk to me or hit this pillow." If he still cannot control himself state "The playroom is for everyone, not for children that hit. If you want to be here, do not hit. If you hit you have decided to go to your room." If he hits, you remove him from the room saying "I see you decided to go to your room." It's not fun to physically remove a child and yes, it is like time out, but by making it the child's choice, you are educating the child in various ways. You are teaching him to take responsibility for his choices..you are not unilaterally putting him into time out. You are teaching him how to control himself and you are keeping your relationship positive during difficult circumstances.Tell him "when you are ready to be in the playroom without hitting, come on out." If the child returns to the playroom 5 seconds later, greet him with a big smile and say "I see you decided not to hit your sister."
I raised my six children using this type of interaction and the behavior rarely repeated itself.
**With thanks to my nephew for this photo. Now a father himself, he posed for this picture many years ago.