I am not a hardcore behaviorist.
I practice attachment parenting and gentle discipline, which are ultimately based on Glassar’s Control Theory (for any of you who happen to by psych nerds, out there!). We treat all behavior as communication, and try to figure out what need the Bean is trying to meet, through her behavior. (Then, we teach her more effective ways to meet that need). We don’t use time-outs, per se, but we do sent Beanie to her room to calm down when she is overstimulated.
That being said, there are occasions when what is needed is an old-fashioned punishment.
Riding in the car, is one example. The Bean loves to unbuckle her seatbelt. Of course she is meeting a need–she is bored and wants to move around, rather than sitting in that uncomfortable car seat. The long-term solution might be to find more diversions for her. We’ll keep problem-solving, of course.
But, the more immediate concern is Beanie’s safety. Explaining it doesn’t work, because her understanding of language is so limited (and she has no sense of danger). We don’t believe in spanking or hitting (and Beanie has sensory issues, so she would have no reaction to physical punishment anyway).
So Rob had a stroke of genius. He gave her a time out.
Rob said, “If you unbuckle it again, you will be on time out.”
She unbuckled it. Rob buckled it back up, held her hands, and said, “Now you’re on time out.”
I bit my lip, to keep from laughing, and looked away.
Beanie was furious about this injustice, and once her time out was over (after a minute or two), she absolutely kept that seat belt buckled.
Sometimes it’s not the action, but the spirit behind it, that makes all the difference.