Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Dealing with terror toddlers:

Calling 'time-out' on misbehaviour can be appropriate & effective if used in the right situations.
By Kylie Johnston
Date: August 20 2013
Editor Rating:

Recently, I overhead a discussion between a group of young mums about what to do with their pre-school age children when they misbehave.

One suggestion made was to have a ‘time-out’. But this is not every parents' way.  

Some parents see 'time-out' as interventionist and authoritarian and prefer other actions such as doing something funny, offering a misbehaving child as a way of 'reconnecting', taking a parental time-out, counting to 10, taking deep breaths and reminding the child that you love them.

However, this might not have the right impact on every child, and may not give them the message that they've done something wrong.

I also do not think it is appropriate to use time-outs in every instance. But time-outs can be appropriately and effectively used in instances where a child has been aggressive, either physical or verbal for two reasons:

1.  It's a non-violent way of applying some discipline that puts the responsibility on the child to rejoin the group or family activity.

2.  It means that the misbehaviour or naughtiness is stopped straight away because you remove your child from the activity.

If you think it's something that could work for your family, here’s some ideas on how to give a time-out:

  • Identify ahead of time, what specific behaviours result in a time-out. It’s important that kids know what is, and isn’t, acceptable.
  • Choose a place in the house, like a chair or a mat, which is removed from the household action, but close enough that you can still monitor your child.
  • When you introduce the concept, show your child what will happen if he has to go to time-out so he’s clear what it means.
  • Make sure you administer a time-out immediately after your child misbehaves. Be calm and clear and don’t be swayed. You say something like: “Hitting your little brother is against the rules. You need to take time out.” Escort your child to the time-out area and tell him that he must remain there until his time-out is over.
  • You know your child and the number of seconds or minutes he can tolerate - somewhere between 10 seconds and 8 minutes is the range.
  • If you’ve already talked and showed them about time-out, this is not the time to explain to your child what he did wrong, and it is also too late for him to apologise as a way of avoiding the time-out. It’s also important that you show your child that you mean what you say.
  • Be consistent. once you say that a behaviour will result in a time-out, you must follow through every time.
  • Use a kitchen timer to let your child know when his time out is over.
  • Don’t talk to or attend to a child who is in a time-out.
  • Ignore mild misbehaviour while your child is in time-out. These are just more attempts to get your attention!
  • Once the time-out is over, start again from a clear slate with no further discussion unless your child needs to apologise for something he did, or to follow through on something you asked.

Remember - with parenting, there's no right or wrong way; just the best way for your child and your family. 

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