5 Tested parenting hacks for a successful timeout


My kids can be real turds. There are many moments in a day when I find myself wanting to threaten a timeout, but I bite my tongue and find more clever ways to get my kids to behave because let’s face it, timeouts do not work. Not only does it create supremely grumpy children, but also often times the timeout is more painful for the parent.

So I test ran some upgrades to the traditional timeout and this is what happened.

Threaten Them With Boredom
I’m at the grocery store with my two crazy boys who – no matter what I say – will not settle down, keep their hands to themselves, or stop whining.

So what do I do? I threaten to make them sit in the car and listen to NPR. With Dad. Good luck getting Dad to stop explaining economic policy or all the ways in which Congress is filled with dirty crooks.

This works with the evening news as well. I’m not sure what exactly my children think the news is, but they know that they would rather eat sawdust than watch it.

Offend The Olfactory Sense
I’m trying to cook dinner and my oldest child will not stop whining for snacks. After several gentle reminders that we do not eat snacks all day I attempt to redirect my child toward a fun activity all with a smile on my face and the patience of a Saint. But it doesn’t work. My kid marches back into the kitchen and bemoans how unfair life is because he cannot have a giant bowl of Cheddar Bunnies.

So, what do I do? I chop up an onion and leave it on the counter because I know that the smell of onion drives him bonkers and he will avoid the kitchen at all costs. Sometimes, I’ll boil a cabbage because that just stinks to high heaven and keeps the kids OUT of the kitchen.

Viola! 10 free minutes of peace and quiet.

Threaten To Eat All The Things
We don’t do a huge amount of snacking at our house. Heck, our kids have never even been to a fast food joint and I can count on one hand the number of times my oldest has had soda. As a result, sugary things are a highly prized possession in my house.

So what do I do when the whining reached a fever pitch, the sass talk rears its ugly head, or the house rules are getting ignored? I pull out the worst trick ever.

I keep a small bag of chocolate covered almonds in the pantry. When the kids are awesome they get a few as a special treat. When they are not so good, I calmly say, “Hey, keep it up and these are ALL MINE!”

I’m not talking about inappropriate or mean embarrassment. I’m talking about playing up the goofy mom personality. Kids think they can sass talk me in public? Fine. I’ll just start singing very loudly. The pint-sized dictator is refusing to eat diner? Fine. I’ll leap up from the table and do the Electric Slide while cheering on my kid for giving up his desert for his dear old mom.

The Ol’ Snails Pace Trick
My oldest child absolutely despises this parental maneuver. You see, at our house there are only a few rules to follow. For the most part my husband and I expect our children to be kind, respectful, and to not trash the place.

So what do I do when they forget their good manners and start acting like tyrants? I slow things down. If my kid starts barking out demands and hasn’t used an iota of politeness then I move so slow it is hardly detectable. I even talk slow. To my kid this is the most irritating thing I can do, just like to me it is wildly annoying to not hear please or thank you.

My kids test my limits as if they work on commission. Instead of yelling or threatening to banish them to their rooms where they will no doubt fume about how unfair life is, I’ve flipped the rules and find ways to test my capacity to think outside of the box. The real trick to making this work is the element of surprise and creativity. It makes me a better mom.



Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.