Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 9: The Outlasting Technique

(Click HERE to read the rest of the Grace-Parenting series.)

The outlasting technique is my version of isolation/time-out/time-in that I use for two reasons:

lack of emotional control or an unwillingness to cooperate.

The first reason we might use this technique is for emotional outbursts. I'm not talking about a small "I don't want to!" response---an immediate re-do will usually work to suffiently gain obedience in that instance.

Sometimes, though, little ones lose control of their emotions, out of frustration, or anger from not getting their own way.

---BABIES and OUTLASTING: 9 to 18 months

At the beginning of a baby's life, WANT equals NEED, so we don't discipline for fussing, crying, or screaming. Babies need a voice to communicate their needs. :)

Around 9 months, however, I begin teaching some emotional control---gently and consistently. When my little ones begin to arch their back and scream to get down, or scream in anger because I'm changing their diaper, etc, I make eye-contact and say "No temper! Shhh."

I will also script their emotions for them, like this: "I know you are upset because you want to play! You may play when Mommy is done. No temper." I may or may not offer a little distraction, like singing a song or tickling their toes to encourage a pleasant mood. :)

Sometimes this is enough to calm the little one down.

Sometimes it isn't. :)

When I sense that my little one is just screaming from an emotional outburst (carefully discern if the little one just needs to nurse or sleep, etc), I will OUTLAST them.

I do this by putting them in their bed and saying, "NO temper. Mommy will pick you up when you stop screaming." and walking out of the room.

I come back in about 1 or 2 minutes (even if they are still screaming), smile at the baby, and say, "Are you ready to obey Mommy now?" I pick them up and repeat, "No temper" if they are still screaming. I comfort and snuggle for a second, helping them gain emotional control if they're ready.

If they continue to scream at that point, I say, "No temper" and put them back in the crib. I repeat the process until the baby calms down willingly and stops screaming. The first couple of times it may take more time, but after that, the little one knows what I want them to do and will either stop screaming the first time I say "No temper!" or shortly after being put in their bed. :)

**A couple of words of caution:

----Some babies need help calming down and do better with an "in-arms" outlasting. This works the same way as the "in bed" technique---you just hold the little one firmly in your arms, quietly repeating "No temper. Shhh." until they stop screaming or "fighting" you.

For many children, however, the "in-arms" makes them MORE angry and they calm down much quicker in their own bed. Out of my three toddlers, two responded wonderfully to the in-bed technique and would calm down on their own and be ready to obey very quickly. The third one (adopted) cannot ever calm down when left alone so we pick her up and hold her while she gains control of her emotions. Use wisdom to not let the situation escalate unnecessarily.

----I do NOT recommend using the "in-bed" technique with newly-adopted children, as your attachment is not established enough for it to be effective and it could seem like abandonment to the child. Wait until they are older and/or home with you longer--or try the "in-arms" or "in the same room" outlasting.

---TODDLERS and OUTLASTING: 18 months to 4 years

Some toddlers still respond well to the "in-bed" outlasting, but because little ones of this age are usually quite mobile, you might find that they don't stay in their bed. (or your child just responds better to being with you.)

In this case, you can use this technique by keeping them close to you, but outlasting the unwanted behavior with some "time-in".  The behaviors I'm talking about include screaming, tantrums, or complete unwillingness to do what they are asked to do. (I usually try a re-do or gentle teaching first, but when it is clear they are not going to obey, I use this technique.)

Let me give you a sample scenario to explain how this technique works:

I tell my toddler to do something and they respond with a whiny voice. I answer back, "We don't talk to Mommy like that. Use your nice words and try that again." Instead, the whining has gotten louder, they have refused the redo and are getting more upset about what I'm wanting them to do. I get on their level (either by bending down or picking them up) and say very firmly, "You may not scream at Mommy. I know you don't want to do X, but you need to stop screaming and or you will need to sit until you're ready to obey."

If they continue to scream, fuss, etc, I put them down in the same room (either on a chair or on the floor) and calmly (Mommy needs to be in control, too!) say, "Sit here. You may get up when you tell Mommy you are ready to obey." I turn away, giving them some privacy to gain control of their emotions (ever needed to get away from people in order to calm down?), but keeping them in my point of view in case they were to try to get up. I do NOT allow them to get up. :) As soon as they say, "Mommy, I'm ready to obey!", I pick them up. We have hugs and kisses, make sure all is calm, then I repeat the original command. When they have obeyed, I usually ROLE-PLAY the way the situation should have gone. We laugh and smile, and we walk away from the discipline CONNECTED.

**How is this different from a "traditional" time-out?

---It is not a punishment for wrong behavior. It is giving your child time to gain control of their emotions without giving in to their disobedience, teaching that screaming or tantruming is not acceptable.

---There is no "set" amount of time until the outlasting is over. If the child is ready to obey in 10 seconds----great! Consequence is OVER. :) If it takes 10 minutes, that is okay, too.

**Words of Caution:

---Remember that some children need help calming down and it is okay to pick them up and love on them if it helps! If they are not ready to say, "I'm ready to obey, Mommy", I put them back down and repeat the steps.

---If you are at all angry DO NOT USE THIS TECHNIQUE. It is positively useless to try to teach emotional control when you don't have any.

---The goal is not punishment, but restoration. You can show the child that you are not going to give in to the screaming without getting angry. Parental anger is unnecessary with OUTLASTING.


By the time most little ones are 4, tantrums or emotional outbursts are rare, especially if they've been futile in the past. :)

"Older" little ones still do occasionally have emotional moments where outlasting is an effective technique, though.

I can give a "real life" example of this as we used the technique this morning with our Noah (he's just turned 6).

Noah came into the kitchen and said, "I'm hungry, Mommy." I told him we were getting ready to leave to go to town, but that he could have a banana. He replied, "I don't care for bananas. I want a granola bar or some goldfish."

I calmly said, "No, Noah, you may not have a different snack this time. You may have a banana or nothing, because we are leaving in just a minute." He said, "But I don't care for bananas!"

I picked him up and put him on the kitchen counter. I calmly said, "Noah, I know you don't care for bananas. They're not your favorite, but we are leaving soon and Mommy wants you to have a healthy snack if you're going to eat. You may have the banana or nothing."

He continued to argue with me. (This is actually not one of my children prone to arguing at all.) Brent came in the room at this point and said, "Noah, you will not argue with Mommy. Go sit on your bed until you're ready to obey." He went. He fussed in his bed for about 5 minutes.

Then Brent and I both went into his room, pulled him on our laps and said, "Buddy, you cannot fuss and argue with Mommy. Bananas are not your favorite, but they are good for you and you need to eat them." Because he was calm and apologetic at this point, we rewarded his efforts with a compromise: "If you eat half of the banana, you may have some goldfish after lunch."

(We don't always offer the compromise, but he truly was hungry and we feel it is important to meet the needs while teaching. :))

We snuggled, he apologized, we role-played how he should have acted, and off he went with a smile.


Outlasting also works well when a child of most any age is being defiant and just won't listen. It may not mean putting them in a chair or their bed---it may just be the actual act of outlasting that is necessary.

Outlast (which means don't give in until the child is ready to obey) the following behaviors:

--Refusal to clean or do a job. (Often I will offer help but a grumpy child will need to finish the job alone.)

--Refusal to finish schoolwork. (Again, I will offer help if it is asked for respectfully.)

--Open, repeated refusal to apologize to a brother wronged, or use respectful words. (I start with a re-do, but open refusal is outlasted.)

The child's entire world comes to a halt until they are ready to obey. I don't mind waiting---and nothing fun will happen until they obey. :)

Sometimes an older child will earn further consequences for prolonged defiance. (Post on "creative consequences" coming soon!)

**Outlasting is a wonderful technique for training and discipling an older adopted child. It often looks like a "time-in" in the sense that the child is in "control" of when the discipline is over---all they have to do is say, "I'm ready to obey."

I hesitated at first to use this with Johanna, but she responds WONDERFULLY to this technique! She can be openly defiant, but when I make her sit until she's "ready to obey" she will almost always say, "I'm ready!" within a minute or two. These children often have no concept of discipline and haven't ever been "made" to comply without manipulating, lying, screaming, etc to get out of it. Outlasting the negative behavior (along with reasonable compromises, constant re-dos, extensive role-playing, and lots of nurturing!) goes a long way in teaching them that they need to listen and obey.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to outlast Johanna, right from the very beginning. I might say, "Tell Ellie you're sorry." and she would shake her head, NO. I would repeat it. Over and over. I'd sit right next to her and not let her do anything else until she apologized. Rinse. Repeat. Redo. I'm happy to say that saying "I'm sorry!" comes completely natural to her now, but boy, did it take some serious work in the beginning, lol.

Outlasting is the process of waiting for the child to yield.

It is a highly effective way to teach even small children that manipulative crying, screaming, or defiance are not profittable.

It is, however, completely useless if the parent is angry, frustrated, sarcastic, demeaning, or out-of-control.

(Remember---Outlasting is only ONE tool in your parenting toolbox. It is not the ONLY tool. :) Don't overuse it, and don't reach for it when a simpler response is appropiate.)

Blessings to you, dear friends, on this beautiful parenting journey. :)


  1. I have one who is very prone to fussing and pitching fits, but I think she is getting the hang of the fact that she's not going to be allowed to do that. I'll walk by her room and find her sitting on her bed with a pouty face. When I ask her what she's doing she'll tell me "I can't get up until I'm ready to be happy." I'll shrug my shoulders and say okay, not knowing that she had even been upset. A few minutes later she'll come skipping out announcing that she's ready to be happy now. Oh, if only all children would discipline themselves! :) Her problem is that she disciplines herself a little too much. She'll announce out of the blue that she can't have a treat at lunch because she's being naughty. (Huh? You are?) Or she'll embarrass me at the babysitter's because she'll tell them mommy said she's not allowed to eat any food at all because she's naughty. I'm not quite sure how to convince her that it's mommy and daddy who determine when and how she needs to be disciplined, not her!

  2. what do you call this? like how do you refer to this to the child? do you just always say "you must sit here until you are ready to obey?" you don't call it a timeout?

    1. In my mind (and I'm not sure I was clear enough in this post), outlasting is mostly for lack of emotional control. It is not for simple disobedience. Example: Family rule is no jumping on the couch. 4 year old is found repeatedly jumping on the couch. This needs a consequence---but not outlasting. If you use time-out, this would probably be an appropiate time to use it. (Well, in our house, if the older ones put their feet on the couch they can't sit on it for a day. :)) Anyway, time-out is a SET amount of time for a repeated disobedience. Outlasting is for excessive crying, whining, or screaming in which you sense the child is not being rational and needs time to calm down---OR for an older child who refuses a direct command and needs to yield. If the child is out of control emotionally, yes, I say, "Sit here until you are ready to obey". I do know people who use the phrase "calm down corner" or "time-in" but I personally don't have a word besides outlasting, which I don't use directly to the child. Does this make sense or am I making it more confusing?

  3. This may be answered in a future post, but my question is do you still consider the act obedience when the child "obeys" but with a bad attitude. This is especially common when apologizing to their sisters. I'll see a sulky, mumbling "I'm sorry" come out even though I don't feel she is actually repentant. How do you suggest I handle this? Obeying with a good attitude has been hard to teach for me. ;)


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!