I know I have been posting a lot about discipline, because it has been on my mind as I read through Dr. Sear's Discipline Book. His book is not perfect, but it does provide a lot of information. One thing that stands out in my own discipline style and writing is that I often times mis-use the term "time-out," and what I really do and should be referring to is "time-in."
I do have "time-out" as a tool in my box, for reasons that are truly meant to control me more than my son. My husband is out of the country for extended periods of time, so for most of the year, I am a single parent, which means I do not have someone to hand my son off to if I need a break-- from discipline or every day life. I am "it" for him. This point is not to complain about my situation, because I think from my writing, you can tell that I love my son and really do enjoy my life.
The point is that there are days that are struggles-- for both of us-- and when I need a time-out that sometimes means that my son is in time-out in the corner. I reserve this technique for a) very dangerous behavior where I might need to change our physical environment (i.e. clean up glass, etc) or b) when I feel my own anger bubbling and I need to step away for a minute to regain my own composure.
All of that said, our primary "time-out" that is really a "time-in" is far more effective for The Boy and me. I do not generally (see above) place him in a corner to cry alone. If we use the corner (which is often what we do at home), I sit with or near him. I use the first bit of time to reinforce with words that we are sitting there because of __insert misbehavior, and that we do not _insert misbehavior. We do/use _insert positive or appropriate behavior. Then we sit quietly for a bit. Usually, The Boy says that he is sorry (voluntarily, I don't force that either) and that he feels __insert emotion_. Due to his age, at that point I usually ask why he feels that way. The conversation is simple. Usually he does not yet answer why, but I ask follow up questions, and reinforce that he needs to use the appropriate behavior. We hug, snuggle, etc and move on.
This method is especially helpful and useful in public, because we can locate a bench or quiet corner just about everywhere. Also, in some locations, my arms or lap become a time-outin (my new name for it, because I think of time-in as positive time with mama...not discipline).
Some might say that The Boy uses this to manipulate me. However, we do not need to use time-outin often, because he generally follows directions well and uses his manners, and I give him all the loving mama time -in he needs and wants without having to use discipline to teach him. Of course, see paragraph two for my worse case scenario. It happens, but not often.