How I’m Dealing with Hitting Without Using Time Out

MOMMMM! He HIT me!!!

Ugh. At the beginning of the summer we were in a terrible phase of hitting behavior between siblings. Frustration? SMACK!  You said the wrong thing? SMACK! You won’t play with me? SMACK!

I knew time out as a consequence didn’t work well for us, but in desperation I went back to that as a discipline technique.   One go-round of a screaming-panicky child pulling while I tried to hold the door closed and I felt like moron; it reminded me why this was a dumb move for us.

Reducing sibling fights and hitting

I had to look at this from the parenting perspective that really works in our household.

Here’s what I put in place instead of time out:


My husband and I had been busy and TIRED and honestly, not too focused on our kids.  I thought back to one of the top recommendations from Amy McCready's Positive Parenting Solutions Course – kids NEED connection to be able to cooperate.  My kids needed us and the hitting was one way to get us to notice this need.

  • I took a hard look at my plans and backed out of a few commitments that were not necessary.
  • I recommitted to spending at least 10 minutes a day one-on-one with my kids – I particularly focused on the child who seemed most off kilter.  This is HUGE for us.  I am working to connect with them every day in a positive way so they don’t try and get my attention with hitting and fighting.
  • I called a babysitter to gain time to finish up some work commitments so I could feel less overwhelmed and more able to slow down and be present with my kids.


The more the kids hit and fought, the more angry and chaotic I felt.  I had to create a more peaceful home in order to help us all calm down.

  • I cleaned out the toys from their room and stored or got rid of them.  A  few toys are left out in our guest room for them to play with.  This clear space seems to give us ALL some breathing room and has really taken the tempers down a notch.
  • I am taking times when emotions are calm to talk about how people act when they’re angry – what is helpful, what makes us feel bad.  When someone (including myself) has handled anger well, I talk about it afterwards remarking on what they did that worked. “I was so angry!  I wanted to yell and break something, so I took some time in the other room.  I took a lot of deep breaths, then I felt like I could think about a solution a little easier.”

A plan for when someone hits:

Kindness boardI made a plan for what I would do if someone hit.  I try and stay out of sibling conflicts and let them resolve their own problems, but since they were going past the point of ‘talking and solving' into ‘yelling and hitting' so often I realized they were showing me that they needed more guidance on how to deal with their frustrations.

  • I made a kindness board and told them the consequence for hitting or nastiness (you know…just being plain nasty to each other) is that they will need to add one kind thing about the person they hit and a kind thing about themselves to the board.  I write down the kind thing they tell me, and if they were too upset at that time I just make a mark on a post it note to remind me to enforce the consequence later. Before a video or dinner or some other event I'll say, “When you've told me your kind things then you can watch the video.”
  • I began to make an effort to reinforce sibling conflict resolution skills.  If it starts to seem like a fight is getting out of control, or if someone comes and tattles, I reminded them of the words, “When you__________, I feel________ and I would you to____________.” I try and model this for them and helped them find the words they needed to talk to each other.
  • We are doing more ‘time in' – when chaos erupts I take one, two, or all three of the kids and either involve them in whatever activity I'm doing, or take a few minutes to calm everyone by sitting on the couch and reading a story. For more on how people use time in, see the comments on this post.

Dealing with hitting without using time out sometimes feels more complex than a one size fits all answer, but it is feeling more effective than the power struggles that time out brings about in my home.  I'm not perfect and have days when I shout at them to stop fighting, and I have time when the last thing I want is to do is pause and read a book to everyone, but over all I'm seeing more cooperation and with practice, more self control.

How I'm dealing with hitting without using time-out


  • You can learn more tools to invite cooperation in your household in the free one-hour video class titled, “Is Time Out a Waste of Time?”  that I'm hosting with Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions on July 23rd at 9pm Eastern.  Please register HERE if you'd like to reserve a spot!

What about you?  Do you deal with hitting between your kids?  Any tips for me?