Time-out really is my preferred parental disciplinary method for my two, very ornery toddlers. However, actually keeping a toddler in time-out is not so easily done. The effectiveness of time-out, of course, hinges on your ability to actually get your toddler to sit there without having to provide him or her with the attention of a struggle. The whole thing is entirely wasted if your toddler receives that attention toddlers tend to eat up like cookies and milk, or if you fail to keep them sitting there for an adequate amount of time.
So, how do you keep a toddler in time-out?
The hold-Out: One option is to actually hold your toddler in time-out. My husband has keyed this strong arm technique as "daddy-time-out," where he sets one of our toddlers in his lap facing away from him with his arms wrapped around that little twisting screaming toddler body. For this method to work, you have to completely ignore everything your toddler says or does and simply become a silent human detainment system for the duration of the time-out.
The lock-in: Another solution is to have a time-out room. While you may find toys and other objects protest by slamming into the shut door, this technique does completely deprive attention. If you choose to go this route be careful of using sleeping rooms as time-out rooms. If your toddler learns to associate their bedroom with being in trouble, you may have difficulty getting them to sleep and play there. As always, never lock your child in an inappropriate or dangerous location such as very small dark room, an overly hot or cold room, or one that has not be unquestionably, without-a-doubt child proofed. Lock-in time-outs should be kept short.
The intimidator: Depending on your disciplinary style, you may be able to threaten an escalation of punishment. For example, as a spanking-OK mom, I often tell my toddlers if they won't stay in time-out they'll be spanked instead. This works almost without fail and I rarely actually have to escalate the punishment. Remember, if you say you'll do it, you have to actually do it though, so don't make empty threats with ridiculous punishments you'd never carry through.
Most toddlers eventually learn that sitting down, being quiet, and just getting time-out over with is easier if you remain consistent- and hopefully even learn it's easier not to do things that earn time-out in the first place.
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