Timeout For Toddlers

We’ve all been there — Our child is doing the complete opposite of everything we want and our insides start to boil.  A parenting book from 1940 might recommend pulling out a switch and giving your child three lashes.  If you are still looking for that edition, try contacting your local CPS agency and see what they have to say.  😎  I am here to recommend a more civil approach.  The timeout for toddlers approach.

Children of all ages tend to defy rules and well, adults do too.  If we followed every rule that was ever written, we would still be kicking rocks in the stone age.  My point is, try to accept that your child will by nature, attempt to defy your rules.  Once you have accepted that, you can move on to the next step; the teach-learn phase.

The teach-learn phase is something I just made up.  You are (of course) the teacher and your child is the learner.  Think about that the next time you want to teach your child right from wrong.  Is your child going to learn that swearing is bad if you are swearing at them about their swearing?  Is your child going to learn that throwing things in the house is bad while you throw their toys around the house in a fury?  I am going to take a guess and say no to both of those questions.  Teach your child what is wrong by approaching them in the right way.  This is where the timeout for toddlers comes in handy.

Timeout for toddlers is actually a timeout for both parent and child.  It gives the both of you a chance to be separated, to gather your thoughts and to come back with cooler heads.  The next time your child is misbehaving, tell them that they are getting a timeout.  Move them to a chair, a corner or anywhere else where they can feel safe and be alone in a quiet setting.  If they are yelling or screaming or maybe they are not making any noise at all, give them 2 – 3 minutes to relax.  This will give you a chance to relax as well.  Once the timeout is over, bend down on your knee so that you are at your child’s level.  They will feel more comfortable than when you are standing over them.  Take the time to look at them, ask them why they had a timeout and give them a chance to answer.  It’s important not to say words like “good or bad”, as these are strong words.  Try to rephrase the sentence to explain how their actions made you feel.

An Example Timeout

Example: Your child is throwing toys all over the house.  You ask them to please clean up their mess and to stop throwing toys.  They ignore your request and continue to be destructive.  You ask them again to clean up, but again, they continue on their way.  You can offer to help them cleanup, but make sure not to do all the work for them.  You start to clean up, but the child is not helping.  This is where you let them know that a timeout is coming.  If they continue to defy you, give them a timeout.  Once the timeout is over, talk to them.  ask them “why are you throwing your toys all over the house?”.  Let them answer.  Try to mention how you feel.  You can say, “I want to keep the house clean and I do not like it when toys are all over the floor”.  This way, you are not targeting them or telling them they are bad.  You are simply saying what you feel and it can apply to anyone, not just them.  If everything goes as planned, go back to helping them cleanup.

The toddler timeout is not meant to be a an ultimatum.  It should not be used to threaten your child (i.e. Do this or you will get a timeout).  It should be used as a way to establish patience and understanding between you and your child.   Feel free to share other methods to get a toddler to cooperate.


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