Do time outs for toddlers really work?

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Answered by: Shauna, An Expert in the Discipline and Behavior Category
Disciplining a toddler can be exhausting work! The key is to be consistent with whichever method you choose to use. We all know that children will push the limits again and again to find out where the boundaries are, and that is especially true with a toddler. These kids are so cute with their smiles and their giggles! Half the time you're thinking that they don't even know what they are doing or what you are saying, but make no mistake, by the time they are 18 months old, they do know what they are doing and what you are saying!

Time outs for toddlers have been around forever. They may not have been called time outs, but any time you stood in the corner with your nose to the wall, you were in time out. We have used this method with varying degrees of success, but I do believe in the technique. I say "varying degrees of success," because my toddler continues to put the cat's dry food into their water bowl. Each time he does it, he goes into the corner with a time out. We don't call it a time out, but he knows what the corner is. And, while he has not mastered the discipline to stay away from the cat bowl, he should know what to expect each time he does it, because the result is the same. We are consistent in our reaction, and I am confident that one day he will "just say no!" to the cat bowl.

We have used this same technique on our older children with better success. It is embarrassing to stand in the corner when you are seven, and even worse to stand in the corner when you are 11! But, once again, they know what to expect - if they break the rules, they stand in the corner. For the older ones, it can be excruciating, because we base the amount of time in spent in the corner on their age. Those seven or 11 minutes drag by when you are that young, and if they moan or make a peep, they get another minute added on.

I believe that time outs for toddlers work for a number of reasons: 1) they are a consistent response to poor behavior, 2) they allow the parent to be specific with the child about their poor behavior 3) the child has time to think about what they have done, 4) they allow the parent time to cool down, and 5) they allow the parent a forum to talk with child about how they might have done things differently.

While it is true that you will not have a long discussion with your toddler, at least after he has left the time out, you can still tell him what he has done wrong, and ask him to tell you that he is sorry. Our toddler will do this, and he looks so cute! You can't help but give him a great big hug, and then life goes on.

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