I don't do timeouts or any punishment for a few reasons. For one, it teaches kids to "behave" for self centered reasons, ie. "I won't hit because I don't want a time out" vs. "I won't hit because Mom doesn't like to be hit."
Secondly, punishment acts as sort of a payment for the misbehavior, so that the slate is clean. Kids don't have to feel bad about how their behavior affected someone else, because they've already done their time.
Also, (and this is the most difficult to explain) by punishing, you are sending a message that you don't think they would choose on their own to behave in a socially acceptable way. Even if they don't really get that message, you do. And it almost becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.
I work on the theory that kids try to meet their impulses in the best way they know how and are able to.
I would like to say here that I *totally* get feeling better about doing something
It's sort of hard to come up with, in one post, what one does instead
of punishing. But here's the basic steps I followed when trying to get ds1 to stop doing something:
1. Give information- tell them what you want them to stop/not do and why. Tell them how their actions affect others.
2. Honor the impulse- figure out the impulse behind it. There's a reason.
3. Redirect in a way that honors the impulse- let them know a socially acceptable way of expressing the impulse. Sometimes you have to be very very specific!
So it might look like this (based on a real event lol):
Ds: (hits me with a book.)
Me: Don't hit me. I don't like to be hit. If you want my attention, just say "Mom!"
Ds: (hits me again with the book)
Me: Don't! I don't like to be hit. (I realize it wasn't just an attention thing) If you want me to read to you, give me the book.
Ds: (hits me again)
Me: DO NOT HIT!!! (ok, fine, I yelled. but then I realize I need to be VERY specific) If you want me to read to you, put the book in my hand, like this.
Ds: (puts the book in my hand and never hits me with a book again)
I got most of my ideas from the book Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
I really like this Jan Hunt article as well. Looking Past the Behavior
Both explain what I'm trying to say MUCH better than I am.
Hitting is my hot button. Totally not acceptable. I was NOT nice in response to hitting, and I let my unhappiness show in my voice. I never did the "talk sweetly to them" about hitting/hurting others. Ds1 knew I meant business.