Time Out for a Toddler?

Are time-outs a good discipline tool for toddlers?
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ByElizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert
Updated
Sep 2020
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Time-outs can be an effective part of an overall discipline plan. Remember, the primary purpose of discipline is to teach good behavior. Merely setting your child on a step every time she misbehaves will not teach good behavior; you also have to model and discuss appropriate behavior with her.

That said, time-outs work best when they’re used as a method to stop a specific misbehavior and to help a child learn how to calm herself and control her behavior. Time-outs shouldn’t be used as a punishment.

In other words, many parents are using time-outs incorrectly! The time-out isn’t really meant to be a negative consequence of misbehavior. The time-out is meant to quite literally be time out — a time to stop and reconsider. When kids are in the midst of a tantrum, for example, they may find it hard to think clearly. (Heck, most _parents _have a hard time thinking clearly during a tantrum!) Giving a time-out to a child who is throwing things around the house does two things: it keeps her from damaging your stuff and gives her time and space to cool down.

Time-outs work most effectively when they’re used in a consistent manner. Your child (and you) should know, in advance, exactly what behavior warrants a time-out. You both should also know where time-outs will take place; a safe, boring location is best (avoid using a child’s bedroom, playroom or favorite chair for time-out — you don’t want to create a negative experience in a play space). Toddler time-outs should be short. Some experts recommend one minute per year of age, so a two year old would get a two minute time-out. Other experts recommend keeping your child in time-out until she calms down, which may be significantly sooner (or longer) than the one-minute-per-year rule of thumb. Use your own best judgment.

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