Time Out for a Toddler?

Are time-outs a good discipline tool for toddlers?
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profile picture of Elizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert
September 15, 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.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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