How to discipline your child: time-outs

How to discipline your child: time-outs

Many parents find time-outs to be an effective tool for toddlers and preschoolers. Here’s how to make it work.

A time-out is a period during which a child is removed from the troublesome situation or temptation. It's his chance to calm down, regroup and rememberwhat is expected of him. Here’s how to make time-outs an effective tool.

Consider your child’s age. When children are 18 to 24 months old and until they're about 5. Although every child is different, children younger than that don't really "get it," andolder kids generally need more sophisticated ways to learn how to behave well.

Follow through on rules.During a time-out, the child does not get to interact with the parent or care provider. A time-out is meant to be a minor form of isolation that says, ineffect, "When you do this, you can't be a part of things."

Establish a pattern.This requires an initial investment of time that most parents find worthwhile. Resetting a child's expectations is harder than getting it right the firsttime, but it's still worth the time and energy.

Setting up a time-out
Place a chair in a safe but boring spot, such as the corner of a dining room or a rarely used entrance area. Be sure the place is away from care providersand the "scene of the crime". Being in the middle of things provides too much opportunity for compounding the problem with teasing and provocativebehavior.

How to carry it out
Warn first.After two warnings about the forbidden behavior, announce, "Okay, it's time for a time-out." Nothing more. Pick up the child and place him in the time-outseat.

Set a timer.The duration should be about one minute per year of the child's age.

Be firm.If the child gets up, simply put him back in the chair and reset the timer. Don't say anything and don’t give in.

Forgive and forget.When the timer goes off, say, "It's all done now," give him a hug, and leave it at that. Don't mention the issue again. Give him something new to do, apositive alternative to the forbidden activity.

Common pitfalls
Talking too much.This only confuses the child, adds to the tension, and upsets everyone. A simple statement of the transgression when the "crime" is committed followed by"It's time for a time-out" is enough.

Backfiring.If a time-out provides more attention to the child than he receives when he's behaving well, he'll continue to draw your attention with the provocativebehavior.

The parent is too upset.Take a second to calm down. Go back to your child, state the reason for the time-out, and put him in time-out. Be sure you save this scenario for the worstof “crimes” rather than making it a habit.

Not rewarding good behavior.One approach is to "catch him" being good. This is hard because as the misbehavior escalates, your natural tendency is to push back and even try to avoidhim.

Special circumstances
Behavior.If your child is frantic or ill, he won't be able to learn from the time-out. For children who have experienced a lot of serious separations, time-outsbring up too much emotion, which overrides the learning opportunity.

Developmental age.Children who are developmentally delayed or very advanced in cognitive skills may need to be treated based on their developmental age rather than theirchronological age.

Spending all day doing time-out?
If you find that your child is especially provocative, it might be because he’s experiencing stress or pressure, or simply because he’s bored. Ask yourselfwhether you’re projecting stress – a child will do provocative things to pull you out of your shell, even if it means risking your anger.

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