Making time-out work
Can sending a child to the corner really change behaviour?
‘I’ve sent him to his room,’ says my friend Rachel of her raucous 18-month-old. ‘He doesn’t care. He doesn’t even cry.’
Like many parents, Rachel doesn’t feel that discipline can work unless the child finds it unpleasant
. But surely the point of introducing structure, boundaries and discipline is to help the child behave in more acceptable ways, not to make him miserable.
A time-out, be it to the quiet corner, to the child’s room or to a special chair, is not supposed to be a horrible experience the child wants to avoid. It is supposed to be an opportunity for child and parent to regroup.
‘The real meaning of discipline is to teach, guide and socialise,’ says Parent24 parenting expert Anne Cawood
in her book Toddlers Need Boundaries
. ‘It is not synonymous with punishment. It essentially means learning from the consequences of appropriate choices.’How to use time-out
If used the right way, time out can be a good way to handle those times when your toddler seems determined to disobey and saying no or distracting her doesn’t work.
Have you tried time-out? Does it work for you?
- Time out means putting your toddler in a safe place away from you and others for a few minutes.
- This gives you a chance to calm down if you need it, and lets your toddler know you are not going to let him continue his unsuitable behaviour.
- Prepare him ahead of time how time out will work. Do this when you’re calm, not in a temper.
- Choose the time out place carefully. Use a safe, non-scary place like a room, a chair or part of a room. Never use a closet or place that is dangerous or frightening to your child.
- Time out should last no more than one minute for each year of his life. Set a timer and be sure you follow your time limits. When the time is up, go to him, give him a hug and invite him to be with you.