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3 Rules that Make Timeouts Work for Toddlers

3 Rules that Make Timeouts Work for Toddlers

As innocuous as they may seem, timeouts the 21st century substitute for spanking or punishment are somewhat controversial. Some parents find them to be ineffective as a discipline tool, others say it's all in how you handle them. As Esther D. points out, "doing the timeout right is critical."

If you're just starting to use timeouts with your toddler you may be wondering just what "the right way" is. For instance, how long should they last, as Circle of Moms member Elise N. asks. And how do you use them to correct behavior in a way that's lasting? 

Rule 1: One Minute Per Year of Age

Elise was horrified to hear of a toddler who was put in timeout for 20 minutes for throwing rocks, a period she considers way too long for a two-year-old. She was relieved to learn that Circle of Moms members almost universally agree that timouts should last no longer than one minute per year of the child's age. By these standards, the rock-throwing toddler should have been in timeout for no more than two minutes. But why?


For a toddler, a timeout of more than two minutes will start to feel like punishment rather than a natural consequence of his bad behavior, points out Rachel F. The point is to give the child a brief, immediate break from the situation in which he was "acting out" or engaging in negative behavior.


Rule #2: Explain Your Expectations

Two minutes might feel insignificant to you, but it's a long time for a little one who has not yet developed much of an attention span. It's usually enough time for a toddler to gather himself together and then return to whatever he was doing in a calmer way. Keep in mind though, that even a two-minute break won't be effective without good communication from you. It's very important that you explain to your toddler why he is in timeout, simply and briefly.

At the end of the timeout period,  take a few seconds to spell out your expectations. For example, say, "You can go back to playing with rocks now, but you can't throw them. Throwing rocks is very dangerous."

Rule #3: End with a Hug

Last but not least, be sure to give your toddler a big hug, to remind him that even though you didn't love his negative behavior, you do still love him. As September W. shares, after a brief discussion with her son about how he can improve his behavior, "we hug it out and move on. Works like a charm every time with our 2.5 year old."

Related Reading: How to Make Timeouts Work

Do timeouts work with your toddler?


Image Source: storymary via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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ChristyMannon ChristyMannon 5 years
yeaaaaaah we dont use time out... whoever thought that up was NOT a mom!
lisa41271 lisa41271 5 years
They are supposed to feel like a punishment!
MarshaMais MarshaMais 5 years
For point IS a punishment. Cause and effect. Stop sugar coating folks. moms, toughen up and get with the program or your kids are gonna be nasty little spoiled hellions when they're older
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