I am not a huge fan of the term ‘naughty step’. I believe in the importance of labelling a child’s behaviour and not the child and it is likely that sitting a child on a naughty step will make the child think that they are naughty rather than that their behaviour is naughty. I also live in a bungalow and don’t have steps. But that’s neither here nor there. In my house we use the doormat and it is just called the doormat. It is an area of the house that you are not likely to need to use in the time the child is having their time out and everyone usually has one; so wherever you are you can implement the same consequence. Whatever you choose to use, be consistent with it. It is confusing for children to have time out spaces all over the house so try to just use one space.
It is really important to give your child warnings before they have to sit in their time out space because as I mentioned in my post about new experiences, children are still learning. We live a culture with a lot of social boundaries and expectations and we each have slightly different expectations. You can’t expect a child to immediately know how to behave in each of these instances. Sometimes a warning will also come with a distraction and importantly an explanation. Speak to your child! ‘Freddie, we mustn’t snatch. Suzie is having her turn at the moment and in a minute she might let you have a go. You wouldn’t like it if she snatched from you. Here we go why don’t you play with this toy and in a few minutes you can swap,’ as an example. It sounds obvious… but I can see that it is not. If this happens again, you remind them that they mustn’t snatch and that if it happens again they will be sitting out (or having time out, or sitting on the doormat… whatever your terminology.) Then if it happens again, sit them out. This naturally will vary slightly with the age of a child and the seriousness of the behaviour. My son is nearly two, he knows that hitting people is not allowed and if he hits someone he goes straight to the doormat. When he was younger however, he was given the benefit of the doubt initially, always.
When you first introduce your time out space, there should be a short introduction to sitting there, for example, you must stay here until mummy comes back to talk to you. You are here for hitting your brother and hitting people is not kind.
Then walk away.
If they get off the step/space, put them back. If they scream and shout. Let them. But remind them briefly, that you won’t be coming back until they calm down. I don’t usually give an amount of time to the child because I feel that different behaviours result in different times and sometimes calming down after an incident takes time for a child and generally speaking children have no concept of time.
When they are calm, or when you feel an appropriate amount of time has passed (think maybe a minute or two for a two year old, slightly more as they get older,) go back and sit with them at their level. This is not a time to shout and scream at them. The minutes they’ve sat out should have given you time to calm down if you have felt flustered or cross as well! Explain to them why they are sitting out, if they are young, keep this very brief, then explain what usually happens after this – is there someone they need to apologise to for example? Then when they are off the step, that incident is done. Forgotten. Move on. Don’t keep talking about what has happened, they have had their consequence and now we are moving forward. If they immediately do the same thing again, sit them back down. Remind them that this not OK and go through the process again.
Some top tips for managing tough behaviour:
· Follow through! If you have warned them that they will have to sit out, sit them out when they exhibit the same behaviour.
· Try not make ridiculous threats; if you do that again you’ll be sitting out all afternoon. No they won’t. Don’t cancel Christmas, or going to a party or friends house…these are things that you will not follow through on… (see point one)
· Try not to tell a 2 year old to behave. It is something that slips out of our mouths so easily but means nothing to them. Explain that what they are doing is not acceptable behaviour.
· Model good behaviour. You can’t expect children to ‘behave’ if they don’t know what that is. So show them, show them how to play, show them how to be gentle or take turns or share.