Do time-outs work for two-year-olds?

Parenting Styles   |   Age: 2 years

Do time-outs work for two-year-olds?

If you draw a line in the sandbox and tell your toddler not to cross it, she’s bound to put her toe over it at some point. After all, it’s a toddler’s job to explore her surroundings and test the limits until she gets a “no” from an adult close by. But when “no” turns into a game of “oh, yes I can,” it’s time to step in and define some rules, and clearly defined consequences for when those rules aren’t followed.

For years, parents and caregivers have been using time-outs with their children. And if they’re used correctly, time-outs have proven to be a reliable tool to use when addressing undesirable behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics says time-outs tend to work best during the preschool years, but even a toddler can spend a minute or two in time-out. As long as you realize the goal is to introduce the idea of an enforced break in the action, and you’re willing to modify the steps based on your child’s specific developmental needs, many experts believe this method works.

Tips for using a time-out

Downsides to using time-outs

Time-outs don’t necessarily work for all kids. It takes a bit of trial and error to identify the best consequences for your toddler's actions. If you choose to use this method, a time-out should never be seen as punishment. Rather, a time-out should be a chance for your toddler to catch her breath and take a break from the undesirable action. It’s important to remember that children do better when they feel better, so a time-out given out of anger followed by put-downs and negative statements is not an effective way to help a toddler to calm down.

Tips for addressing behavior before (or in place of) a time-out

About the author:
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son. 

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