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It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the antics of my sons that “timeouts” just didn’t work with them.

Perhaps I should clarify that a bit by explaining that it did not work with my oldest son, Jimmy, so I gave up on trying it for his younger brothers.

When Jimmy was a toddler in the mid-1990s, “timeout” was the form of punishment used by all of my friends who had children the same age.

If one of Jimmy’s little friends grabbed a toy away from him or gave him a shove, the kid’s mom was right there to remove the child from the group and put him in a separate place where he could reflect upon his actions.

It even seemed to work for most of those children, who quickly rejoined the group with dried tears on their faces.

When Jimmy misbehaved at playtime, however, the only way I could get him to leave his friends was to lift his screaming, flailing body off the floor and then serve my own time separated from my friends as I physically restrained him.

When the whole thing was over, nobody had learned anything, I was physically exhausted and my friends seemed embarrassed for me having to go to such extreme measures to control my son.

More than a decade later, I realize what a waste of time the whole thing was for both Jimmy and me. No matter what the latest trend is in regards to parenting, if it doesn’t work for your own child, it’s useless to you.

Never in a million years would I have had the nerve as a first-time parent to announce in the middle of my friends, “Oh, we just don’t do timeouts.”

With the addition of Tommy and Ronnie, our days of meeting with groups of other moms and toddlers were a thing of the past. We had our own little playgroup within the walls of our home.

And it was a lot simpler to invite neighborhood kids over to play than to participate in anything that required scheduling. All three Zich boys had their ways of throwing fits when they didn’t get what they wanted, and I had my way of dealing with their actions without resorting to the dreaded timeout.

I know what they would have done in reaction to being socially isolated. Tommy would have thrown up and Ronnie would have banged his head on the floor, because that’s what each of them did when having a full-out tantrum.

Even though a timeout never felt like the right fit for our family, and I gave up on it by the time my first child was three, I still felt like a failure when I saw it working for other moms.

It has taken me 12 years and a class in behavior management to realize there are hundreds of other ways to improve a child’s behavior. If I had known this back in the mid-1990s, I might have been brave enough to admit to being a timeout dropout.

If, like me, you have children who won’t go along with the latest trend in effective parenting, dare to be different. Instead of wrestling with your child, find something that works for you.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at or visit her Web site at


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