How To Discipline A Toddler – Do Timeouts Work?

How To Discipline A Toddler – Do Timeouts Work?

How To Discipline A Toddler – Do Timeouts Work?

 

Having to discipline children is something that every parent has to deal with. Regardless of what you are thinking, your child is not perfect, and even perfect children test their boundaries. Testing boundaries is a normal part of growing up. It helps children gain independence. The question I get from many of my young parents is how do I best lay down the law. I am a firm believer is being consistent and predictable, in fact 100% consistent 100% of the time. Ideally, your children should know that when he or she does ‘X’, the outcome will be ‘Y’, for better or worse.

 

I am a firm believer is being consistent and predictable, in fact 100% consistent 100% of the time.

 

How to discipline a toddler or child of any age

First of all, for those of you with toddlers make sure they get it. There is no point in giving a child a timeout if they don’t get it. The clearest example is when we tried to give Ry a time out after he was throwing toys (again). The problem was he was just over 1 year old and did not understand the concept of actions having consequences. We made the mistake of trying to put him into time out without considering this. In part, we were motivated to show Dylan, our eldest, that actions have consequences. In our defence, Dyl was actually the one who suggested putting Ry into timeout for throwing. But Ry, just didn’t get it and thought it was a joke and made a game out of it. A couple of months later we found ourselves in a similar situation, this time Ry got it and stopped throwing toys around (at least for the rest of that day).

 

Timeout should be quiet time; we start the clock only once the kids have stopped screaming or crying. If they leave the time out spot, start again.

 

Second, make sure the punishment is age appropriate. A good rule of thumb is a 1 minute/age in years. This is based on the attention span of children and their ability to process time. A 30 second time out can be more effective than a 5-minute time out, when the child is actually engaged in the time out. Once, the child is not actively involved in the time out it loses its effectiveness. That said, this is time for the child to calm down so make sure they do this. Timeout should be quiet time; we start the clock only once the kids have stopped screaming or crying. If they leave the time out spot, start again.

 

Make sure wherever you put them for time it, it is boring and there is nothing to play with. The timeout will not be effective if it is fun and not a punishment.

 

Third, remove them from the situation. In our house we have a ‘timeout corner’, the kids know exactly where to go. We have them face the corner and they sit there quietly until we tell them their timeout its over. As your child gets older, both the length of the time out can increase, and how you remove them from the situation can change. For example sending your child out of the room, or sending them to their room. Make sure wherever you put them for time it, it is boring and there is nothing to play with. The timeout will not be effective if it is fun and not a punishment.

 

If your child doesn’t understand why he or she got the timeout, there is no point in using them. Wait till they get it.

 

The last a most important thing is what you do once the timeout is over. Before releasing your child back to play take a moment to explain to them the reason why they got the timeout. I ask my children why they got the timeout and they usually know exactly why. Make sure they understand that the actions they were doing before the timeout are not acceptable and that is the reason they were put into timeout. Children can be rational, just like adults, so use this to your advantage. If your child doesn’t understand why he or she got the timeout, there is no point in using them. Wait till they get it.

 

By following these tips, you can have timeouts that are effective. Changing a child’s poor behaviour will not happen instantly, but over time consistency will win out.

 

Remember be consistent and predictable. And please, have every caregiver involved. If mom and dad, or grandma or the nanny doesn’t follow the same routine, your child will play this to their advantage.

 

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Quick Tips:

  • Discipline requires consistency and predictability

  • Know when to use timeouts and when they won’t work

  • Have everyone on board!

 

Read some of our child development theories.

Are your 4 year old tantrums out of control? We can help!

 

Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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