Time for time-out

Baby is getting older, and as they grow, their attention span is growing, too. Before this age, if you’d tried to use a time-out as discipline, it’s likely Baby would have run away from the time-out area, not understanding why they are there, and leaving you feeling even more frustrated than when you started. However, as they begin to understand cause and effect, now might be a good time to consider trying out the time-out as a way of discouraging them from trying to do that same dangerous or messy thing again, and again, and again.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in order for a time-out to work for a toddler, the time-out should happen as soon as the behavior you’re trying to discourage happens, so Baby will understand the connection between whatever it is that they have been doing and their period of enforced quiet time. While they may not fully understand the reasoning behind the time-out, make it your goal to use it as an opportunity to stop the negative behavior and to allow them the chance to calm down.

Time-outs can be an effective strategy in modifying inappropriate behaviors and actions, but if they’re going to serve their intended purpose, they’ve got to be doled out and discussed in an age-appropriate way.

Time-Out Tips

  • Be straightforward: Letting Baby know it’s time for time-out doesn’t have to be a battle. Explain to them very briefly why they need to calm down. For example, if they often disobeys you by climbing on the couch and lashing out when you ask them to stop, it’s time to remove them from the situation. Something as simple as, “it’s dangerous to climb on the couch” may help them to understand the reasoning, and give them the opportunity to calm down.
  • Time it right: In addition to enforcing the time-out as the behavior occurs, it’s equally important to ensure you’re setting aside the right amount of time for Baby‘s level of development. If a time-out is too long, children who haven’t developed that long of an attention span yet will have a hard time connecting the punishment with the crime. Typically, a good rule of thumb is one minute per year of Baby‘s life, so don’t aim for more than a minute or two for now.
  • Be selective: If Baby has been fussy all day, but is otherwise not breaking the rules, it’s probably not the right scenario for a time-out. Toddlers get upset for all sorts of reasons, but time-out should be reserved for modifying a behavior that is either dangerous or combative. Giving too many time-outs can make them less effective later, as repeated use of them lessens their impact.
  • Provide reassurance: Once the time-out has ended, give Baby a hug and let them know that you’re proud of them for calming down. This will let them know that you still love them and that you forgive the behavior that resulted in the time-out.

  • “Time-Outs 101.” healthychildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
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