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When Toddlers Misbehave

When Toddlers Misbehave: Using Time-Outs Effectively

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When Toddlers Misbehave: Using Time-Outs Effectively

When Toddlers Misbehave

It’s only natural for toddlers to test their boundaries–and their parent’s patience! When this happens, it’s helpful to use the “time-out” method to regain control of the situation and teach your child to behave properly. Often, children come back from a time-out in a calm, positive frame of mind.


However, there are some common mistakes that parents make when utilizing the time-outs for discipline. In order for time-outs to be effective, they must be properly staged, appropriately timed, and perfectly consistent.


Setting the Stage


The time before disciplinary action is crucial to the effectiveness of a time-out. When time-outs are a definite contrast from normal interactions, they have the greatest impact. To accomplish this, parents must be diligent in heaping a great deal of praise and positive language on their toddler over the course of a normal day.


When this is done effectively, there is no need to scold or yell at the child. Instead, simply withholding the usual positive talk is sufficient. This allows the time-out period to be completely silent while still serving as a correction that the child can understand.


Setting Appropriate Time Limits


The time that a child spends in time-out is partly contingent upon the reasons for the correction. Under normal circumstances, a time-out should never exceed one minute for every year of the child’s age. That said, there are certain circumstances when this is not appropriate. Some examples include when:


.   The child is visibly upset and excited

.   The child will not remain in time-out

.   Time-outs happen in rapid succession



When a child is excited, it is sometimes apparent that they will not calm down on their own. In those cases, it makes sense to calm the child without a time-out. Also, during bouts of defiance, time-outs can become useless. Redirection and distraction are much better choices when this is the case.


Consistency is Key


Waiting until a situation reaches critical mass is not an effective use of a time-out. Instead, time-outs should always be considered a behavior-shaping activity. You are not punishing your toddler for their actions–instead, you are helping them understand the right choice in a situation.


For that approach to work, the time-out should be used every time the toddler displays the unwanted behavior. When parents begin to weigh time-outs in terms of the severity of the offense, the message is lost on the toddler. Instead, consistently administer the time-out and be sure to verbally link the consequence to the target behavior.


By following these guidelines, time-outs can help your toddler learn to behave in a positive way. Remember, you are not being cruel to your child by doing this. You are simply communicating behavior expectations to them in a way they can easily understand.




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