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My goddaughter is barely 3 years old and I visit and babysit her often, and have her mother's full permission to use time outs when I feel they are appropriate. She is usually pretty well behaved, but she is not afraid to express herself, and that can include her displeasure at time outs. Occasionally when she gets a time out, when the time out is over she will intentionally do whatever it was that got her in time out just to show her defiance. This is far more common when she is tired (I do try to be more lenient about punishment when she is tired, but there can still be times when she does something that I can't ignore)

So for instance if she is in time out for hitting as soon as I put her down she will do a half hearted slap at me while still crying. I'll repeat that hitting isn't allowed and that she is in time out again, doing a quicker count down until time out is over. She will be crying and upset during this. As soon as time runs out I'll move and tell her that her time out is over (and that I love her, I always try to do that after a time out), and she will again try to slap at me while still upset and crying.

The slap isn't to hurt, it's usually half hearted with little force. However, if she misses me (which I'll try to ignore at times), she will do it again until she hits. It's clear it's an act of defiance just to prove she can still do whatever it is she was told she shouldn't, and to show she is upset with the whole situation of time out.

If I let her she would repeat this cycle over and over again. I've usually resorted to getting another caregiver to come 'rescue' her and comfort her, usually her mother or another family member is around when I'm visiting, though not always. This works since she will run to them after time out instead of being defiant so she won't do anything that warrants a repeat time out. However, I'm trying to figure out a good way to break this cycle when I'm babysitting her by myself; one that doesn't have me ignoring her attempt at a hit (or other defiant behavior), since I don't want to encourage it.

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Have you tried a time out bottle? We have used them with great success. Sometimes a child just needs a distraction to break the spiral they are in.

We take a clear 18 oz bottle (like a soda bottle) fill it about 3/4 full with water or a water/oil mixture. Then pour in glitter/sequins/sparkles/coloring so that it's almost full. At this point, you can seal the bottle by putting some glue in the cap and then screwing the cap on the bottle, but we haven't found that necessary. You now have a Time Out Bottle!

When she does something that requires a time out you can talk to her about her behavior. Shake the bottle so that all the little pieces start to move around. Sit her down somewhere and tell her she can get up as soon as the little things inside stop moving.

We have found that usually by the time the bottle has settled (perhaps we shake it harder when we are really upset) everyone has had a chance to calm down. When they are about 5-years-old or so this doesn't work as well. By then we've found that there are more communication tools in their toolbox and so a trick like this isn't as needed.

It sounds like you are a very loving caretaker. I hope you find something that works! Good Luck!

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She is usually pretty well behaved, but she is not afraid to express herself, and that can include her displeasure at time outs.

How is she expressing herself? With hitting, or with words? One is acceptable, one obviously is not.

Occasionally when she gets a time out, when the time out is over she will intentionally do whatever it was that got her in time out just to show her defiance.

I don't believe that 3 year olds are capable of thinking about the issue in that way.

So for instance if she is in time out for hitting as soon as I put her down she will do a half hearted slap at me while still crying.

What do you think the point of the time-out is?

If it's to give the child time to calm herself, to get back in emotional control of herself, than her crying and hitting you indicate that she has not done that yet. She needs more time, or some more help to calm down.

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