Top 5 Time-Outs That Work!

Top 5 Time-Outs That Work!

Your 2-year-old has tossed her spaghetti on the rug and is shrieking "Mean Mommy!" Your 5-year-old is trying to ride the dog like a horse. And . . . uh-oh . . . so is your 7-year-old. Time for some effective discipline. The kind that teaches kids important lessons about behavior, boundaries, who's in charge (you), and how to calm down. Time-outs are one of the most effective and popular ways to do this. In fact, up to 70% of parents use them. The drawback is that there are almost as many ways to mess up a time-out as there are ways to make it work. (Hint: Shouting at your toddler won't help.)

Here are five smart ways to make time-outs work and three things that make them backfire. (It may help to pinpoint your parenting style with this quiz so you can apply this advice in a way that suits your style.)

  1. Make it borrrring. Bedrooms and playrooms are too fun for time-outs. A chair in the dining room, living room, or hallway -- wherever you can keep an eye on your child -- is best. (Toddlers can sit in an empty playpen.) You want your child to feel bored and to calm down without relying on distractions like TV to do the job.
  2. Be matter-of-fact. When your child misbehaves, clearly and calmly explain why a behavior is not acceptable. Tell her to stop, and warn her once that if she doesn't, she'll have a time-out to calm down and gain control. Skip yelling and lecturing. You want to minimize the behavior, not amp up the drama.
  3. Make room for praise. If your child stops as requested, be sure to praise the good behavior. (If she needs a time-out, praise her afterward for gaining control.)
  4. Be prompt. If the behavior continues, take her to the time-out spot. You may have to carry a toddler or a resistant child. Hold her facing away from you so your actions can't be confused with a hug.
  5. Don't hold a grudge. When the time-out is done, let her get back to what she was doing. She's served her time and learned the lesson -- no need to scold.

Is your child stressed? Do this fun 4-minute soothing exercise together.

3 Time-Outs That Don't Work

  1. The out-of-the-blue time-out. Don't spring this technique on your child without first explaining it. Choose a time when all's well, show her the time-out spot, and briefly explain why you might use it: "If you pull the dog's tail or hit your sister, you will get a time-out." Some experts recommend practicing first with dolls, puppets, or stuffed animals.
  2. The too-long time-out. After age 3, 1 minute per year of age to a maximum of 5 minutes is the general guideline. And some experts say 20 seconds is enough for toddlers. Set a loud ticking timer.
  3. The kid-ruled time-out. A little voice pipes up, "I'm calm now!" Cute, but it's a clever bid to control the situation. YOU decide when the time-out ends. Promptly return a child who escapes the time-out spot, and reset the timer.

Got a 2-year-old? Try these tantrum-taming tips, too.

When do you use time-outs with your children? How well has it worked? Let us know.

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