As teachers, we know that if we are not consistent, we will pay the consequences later on. Students will constantly test us to see what they can get away with. If we aren’t fair, we loose credibility with the other students in our class. So what happens when a time-out doesn’t work for some kids? What do you do?
For me, there are just those kids that need a different consequence that will help them to understand why they are not allowed to repeat the choices they made. Below are five alternatives that might work in place of a time-out.
1. “Let the punishment (consequence) fit the crime.” This phrase is something I always remember when giving an appropriate consequence. Students will always make good and bad choices, and sometimes we continue to torture ourselves by giving them the same consequence for each infraction. For example, if a student decides to cut paper up into a bunch of pieces because they are angry, I am not going to give him or her a time-out. I am going to wait until the student calms down, and I will talk to him or her about the choice they made. The consequence will be something along the lines of picking the mess up, and perhaps picking up every single piece of paper that happens to be on the floor of my classroom. This way, the student is able to see why it is unpleasant for a teacher or custodian to have to clean up a careless mess.
2. In situations where emotions are negatively elevated, let the student help you or do something for you that is completely different from the activity they were previously doing. You don’t want to create a power struggle situation, where you and the student only get more frustrated. In that moment, you have the opportunity to completely avoid a situation where things only get worse. If I have a student who is angry, the last thing I want to do is put them in a time-out. You have to allow them a chance to calm down in a different scene.
3. Let the student take a walk. Some of the students in my classroom already know when they are at the point where they need to take a walk. If you can create an environment where students are able to self-regulate and recognize the triggers before things escalate, you will have more time to teach content without interruptions.
4. If you have a ticket or money system in your classroom, give the student a fine. I don’t use class cash or tickets in my classroom, but I would say this is as close to real-life as it gets. As adults, if we break a law, we often get a ticket or a fine. When our students are adults, they will have the same consequences adults have. Because this does not work for every child, you have to test what works with different students in your classroom.
5. Require the student write a self-reflection of what triggered the behavior, and how they could have handled the situation differently. You could even have a “think-spot” where you have a form and utensils ready to go. The “think-spot” should be a positive place where your students can go to calm down and reflect. I keep the reflection papers for my own records because I document everything whenever possible. I would only share with parents in extreme cases.
With all these different consequences, it is important to teach your students that different people have different needs. “Fair isn’t fair”, and if they are able to understand that you are differentiating based on each student’s needs, they will start to buy in to your behavior system. My kids are very good with this, and they actually encourage good behavior. I will sometimes catch them giving encouragements and reminders to each other. It takes a little extra work at first, but having differentiated consequences pay off big time!
If you have a great idea for an alternative to a time-out, be sure to share in the comment section below!