"Give your children regular doses of Vitamin "N," as in "No." "

Time to Throw out The "Time-Out"


What approach is best when a 27 month old gets up and giggles when put in a time out chair? I have put him back in, but he keeps laughing.... I'm only putting him in time out for a very short length of time. He knows he is in there because a rule was broken.


For some children, timeout works great. Those are kids who are typically a bit more reserved and truly eager to please. (I've only ever met a handful of them!) For other children (like mine and most others) timeout isn't an effective means of modifying behavior.

Most 2 ½ year olds find it hilarious if they illicit a reaction from an adult. Your son can see or sense that he's getting under your skin, so it's quite amusing to him. The solution is that you should NOT participate in his game. Forget about "timeout." When he breaks a rule, calmly- and with as few words as possible- tell him, "no" and then change the situation.

Here's an example: let's say that he's climbing on the furniture. Tell him, "Stop climbing on the couch. Let's go find a puzzle to work." Then take him by the hand and go work the puzzle. If he whines about it, ignore him and proceed calmly.

Another example: If he's playing in his food say, "Use your fork not your fingers." If he continues, then take the entire plate away, wipe his face and hands and send him on his way. When he gets hungry and asks for food, ask him if he plans to use his fork or his fingers? "Fork" gets food, "fingers" do not. There's actually very little that you need to say. It's how you say it and the fact that you follow through with a consequence that makes him change his behavior. And you must remain unfazed by his chortling.

I think that the entire "timeout" method is over-used and completely over-rated. There are many more effective ways to train a toddler. If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you read John's books "Making the Terrible Twos Terrific" and "The Well-Behaved Child" for more ideas.

Liz Mallett, CLPC

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