Super Nanny Where Are You? The Reverse Time-Out

Time-outs are not a common thing in our home, but they happen.  Mary Tyler Son just turned three years old and every once in a while that adorable angel, the fruit of our marital love, acts the fool. 

Yes.  It happens.

We follow a fairly standard time-out routine.  Having just turned three, Mary Tyler Son is now doled out three minutes in the time-out chair instead of two for his indescretions.  Most commonly, those involve hitting one of us, kicking us, or simply not responding to our directions without them being repeated a number of times.  I see red when my boy is impertinent.  There is no way in hell that I would have ever been allowed to sass my Irish Catholic father.  Mary Tyler Dad is more patient and forgiving on that count.  Not me. 

Believe me when I say that Super Nanny taught me everything I know about toddler discipline.  For reals.  That gal is smart.  Like Toddler Whisperer smart.  When her show was cancelled, my heart started beating fast, as I never fully paid attention to her discipline strategies for older kids, tweens, or teens.  Mary Tyler Son is %^&*$# after age five (UGH – I just made another promise to my Dad that I would not swear on MTM). 

But he is not five yet.  He is just three and that means I have two more years to worry about discipline post toddlerhood.  That will come later.

Right now, I am struggling with our current time-out protocol and with Super Nanny having left me high and dry, I need help.  Your help. 

Mary Tyler Son is smart.  And feisty.  Kind of like me.  He does not like his time-out accommodations and getting him to sit still in the designated chair (a super cool mid-century restaurant booster seat in bent wood and red vinyl, yo) turns a three minute time-out into a 40 minute ordeal. 

He knows his Dad is coming from a different discipline place and style and has conned him into having a time-out in his lap or on the top stair (so unsafe when you have 14 stairs).  He knows I am a glutton for punishment and will spend the time it takes to keep his toochus in that little piece of mid-century perfection.  I will do just as Super Nanny instructed and without words keep returning that boy to his seat. 

At some magincal point in this interaction, without fail, it becomes about THE PRINCIPLE for me.  If I tell my misbehaving boy to sit in a chair for three minutes, dagnabbit it, he will sit in that chair for three minutes.  This has made time-outs a bit of a contact sport in our home.  Mary Tyler Son strays and I retrieve.  The clock does not start ticking until his bum in on the seat.  He knows this and challenges it every last time.

This is tiring.  Exhausting for both of us.  Silly, really, but still necessary, as I do not want to raise a brat that has no respect for rules, boundaries, the needs of others.  No, siree!  I want to raise kids who are aware and respectful of others and their needs.  This is “non-negotiable,” a term I use frequently to alert my son when something is a deal breaker. 

Okay.  That said, I don’t always have 40 minutes to administer proper discipline technique, expecially as Mary Tyler Son is most likely to misbehave during transitions — time for bed, time for nap, time for leaving the house, time to eat.  And, yes, I always give fair warning that these transitions are happening.  Exasperatingly, he never hears these warnings and ignores the timer my mother-in-law cleverly suggested we use at the five minute mark.  Sigh.

So anyways.  Yesterday we were both home.  We were tired and cranky after a weekend away visiting grandparents and getting home late.  (Thank you, United Airlines, for allowing me to experience the joys of entertaining my boy at boring mid-sized airport for an extra couple of hours!)  Mary Tyler Son had a bit of a stomach bug, too.  Minor, though.  In retrospect, I think it was just the re-entry to our routine that was upsetting to him.  He missed his grandparents and the lovely time they showed him. 

He kicked me after my explaining for the umpteenth time that No, we were not going to the Shedd Aquarium to see fish.  This despite he himself having gleefully stated he did not want to go see fish as he needed a day at home to “rest.”  He kicked me.  No freaking way my boy is allowed to kick me.  And kicking and hitting are non-warning events — Mary Tyler Son knows that kicking and hitting lead to an instant time-out.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

Well, as expected, his shenanigans started.  Honestly, folks, I did not have it in me to wrestle him for 40 minutes.  After returning him to the time-out seat the third time, turning my back and hearing his little feet follow me, I made an executive decision.  I headed straight to my bedroom, shut and locked the door, and steeled myself for three minutes while Mary Tyler Son wailed and carried on just outside.  Yes, I did.  I might have checked facebook during those three minutes.  Maybe. 

At the end of those moments of deep breathing on my part, I calmly opened the door, kneeled down to talk to my boy, and dropped my jaw when he said, “I’m sorry Mommy.  I’m sorry for kicking you.” He then reached his little arms around my neck to give me “cuddles and kisses,” just like Super Nanny taught us. 

What just happened?  Had I stumbled upon the greatest thing since pre-cut green beans?  Had the time-out gods smiled down at me, providing divine revelation about a different way?  Was I to be the next Super Nanny, elevating the ABC schedule to new heights of amazingness?

I don’t know.  It could be simple dumb luck.  It could never be duplicated again.  I will definitely report back.  With Super Nanny in retirement, we all need some guidance.  How could she have ever left me?  Sigh. 


10 Replies to “Super Nanny Where Are You? The Reverse Time-Out”

  1. Having 2 kids 15 months apart who are now teenagers. I remember when they were 3. I remember the time outs. Oh it is exhausting! Every child is different, they all handle discipline differently. I think uring this particular event he was shocked. The time out routine was different. It wasn’t a game of mommy putting him back and MTS getting up and mommy putting back. This time mommy shut and locked her door and ignored (for lack of a better word) MTS. I think you got your point across that Kicking is not OK. More importantly the point of mommy isn’t messing around and that really hurt me and I don’t like being hurt. Great job mom! 1 mom 0 MTS. I don’t know if this will always work but it did this time and that’s what matters. If I have learned anything being a parent. The element of surprise when it comes to punishment always worked best for me. I had to get creative because if I didn’t my kids would always seem to make some sort of game of it. I had to keep them on their toes, never knowing quite what to expect when it came to punishment.


  2. I have to preface this by saying that I do not have kids yet. I was raised in a no-spanking time-out giving home. It may be helpful to allow the child to leave time out when he/she decides he is calm and ready to act correctly- rather than a standard 1-min per age. That way they have more control and ownership of the consequence. My brother and sil do this with my nephew (age 2) and it works great.


  3. Ahhh…yes. The extended-play time-out. Very common in our home. Lucas has always been extremely stubborn and intense. I have had to deal with hour-long time-outs that were worse for me than for him. He’s gotten better at shortening the length of his time-outs, but still makes it miserable for the rest of us. He screams, cries, stomps and does whatever he can to make sure we don’t forget that he’s pissed off about being in time-out. Did I mention that he’s 5? Tantrums don’t stop at the toddler years, unfortunately.

    Last week, I went to a very short Love and Logic seminar, and let me tell you, it has already helped. With both of the wee ones.
    You should totally check it out. Chris and I are determined to make it work in our house, since nothing else has worked so far.
    We’ve kinda been at our wits’ end for some time now, and figured it’s worth a try.

    Oh, and parent time-outs are encouraged by the Love and Logic program. I used to do them when Lucas was 2.5-3 because I had to get away from him sometimes, or I would have hurt him. Truth. I didn’t even know about Love and Logic then.
    So, you taking that time-out away from him was a good thing. Only, with Love and Logic, you would have said something like, “Mommy needs a time-out, MTS. I’ll come back out when you’re sweet. I don’t like spending time with children who kick me”.
    is the website for Love and Logic, and there are books and videos and all kinds of resources to help. Let me know if you decide to try it out and how it works for you. Hang in there! XoXo


  4. My son (who’s now 5) was one who would NOT sit in the time-out chair. I eventually (at about the 3 year mark) would just put him in his room and shut the door and hold it shut for 3 minutes. Talking about it before and after, of course. He was always so mad that he would forget about his toys in his room, and apologize afterwards. Eventually the timeouts became much less, and now, at 5, he rarely has one. Hope it gets better soon!


  5. Well DONE MTM! You Macgyvered a perfect solution to the problem on your feet, in the moment! I have twin 3.5 year olds…one boy, one girl. My girl does her 3 minute time outs with little or no fuss. My son can carry on for 45 minutes. It makes me crazy. Like you, I refuse to raise children with no respect for rules or authority.

    Let me know how that works if you do it again. I’m curious if he’d react the same way twice!

    Loving you!


  6. My son is now 6 but when he younger and would leave the “naughty step” I got so tired of putting him back there that whatever toy he was playing with or his favorite teddy bear, French Toast, would go in a time out. That got him to listen more than sitting his butt on the stairs ever did.


    1. We are charter members of the same club. I don’t have a clue. MTS was misbehaving in a restaurant over the weekend while visiting the grandparents and took my mother-in-law aside and said, “Okay, tell me what to do here.” Sigh.


  7. Stroke of brillance MTM! I will try this. I have a 6 year old that is starting to outsmart me. This morning when I calmly warned him about being sassy (code for talking back) he continued on. He usually responds to 1 warning. I then explained that he lost his TV time for the day – 1/2 hr while I make dinner. Didn’t phase him. I then took the superheroes. Nothing. He just looked at me and said, “I don’t like YOUR attitude mama.” Growing up – that would have probably warranted a slap across the face – but I am striving to improve our parental tactics on this generation. Then I took the cars. That finally got his attention. Geez – I swear the kid will end up playing with lint tonight because he lost all of his other toys. Some days it is so hard NOT to let the kids win. Being a good mom is tough! Keep at it MTM.


  8. Having raised 4 kids I know where you’re coming from. I loved Thomas Phelan’s 1,2,3 Magic. It takes a few weeks to get into the rythym, but it usually works like a charm. I even used it on my teenagers.

    If you start when they’re little, the basic premise is to send them to their room and hold the door closed until they quiet down, then start the time out, all done with very few words. Good luck!


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