Time outs are often considered a disciplinary device. They have been used for years to help discipline your child and teach them good behaviour from unacceptable behaviour. Many parents will start using time outs when a child is around the age of 18 months and continue during the terrible twos and the tantruming three’s. A time out shouldn’t be used as a punishment but rather as a way for your child to take some time to themselves to help them cope with their build-up of emotions that often leads to bad behaviour.
Your toddler’s life’s purpose at this stage resolves around exploring the world and testing the limits. It is your job to help them understand what is right and what is wrong and when the boundaries have been pushed. Toddlers will be coming face to face with a lot of different feelings and emotions, including frustration and anger and most children do not know how to deal with these emotions without some guidance from you.
How Time Outs Work
Time outs are designed to help your child calm down when their emotions gets the better of them as well as teach them right from wrong. Taking a time out involves removing your child from the situation and letting them spend a few moments by themselves. Rather than think of a time out as punishment or a method of discipline, think of it as a coping mechanism to help them calm down, defuse and redirect their emotions.
The best time to introduce time outs to a child is when they can actually understand the concept of right and wrong. Putting a child in a corner and shutting the door when they have not been introduced to this method will only make them more upset and will most likely lead to even more build up emotions, screaming and tantrums.
Furthermore, make sure you choose an appropriate time. When it is time for a time out, talk to your child about why they are going into the time out. Time outs should be a time to help your child feel better but it can also be used as a way to help them understand that they have done something wrong.
Taking a Time Out
You may choose to introduce time outs as a thing you do together. For example, if your child is getting upset with the blocks and throws them across the room in anger, then suggest that you take a ‘time out together.’ Choose a quiet activity such as reading a book or doing a puzzle to help them calm down and teach them how to handle this situation so they have the coping mechanisms to do so on their own in the future.
Time outs are not just a good way for your child to cool off. They can also help you cope with a very frustrating situation. In fact, often time outs are just as good for a toddler as they are for the parent. Many parents will choose to give themselves time outs as a way to cool down before trying to reason with a child. Locking the bathroom door and taking a few deep breaths is a much better way to react to a distressful situation than going at it with your emotions high. You may be unable to control your anger and react by hitting your child or yelling at them which only teaches them that this type of behaviour is acceptable.
Another thing to remember about time outs is that they are not always going to work, especially as a child gets older and learns the word ‘no.’ Furthermore, often putting your child in a time out corner is done when your own emotions are high and you are feeling angry and frustrated at your child. It can be hard, if not impossible, to remain in control of the situation when your child is deliberately acting out, but keep the general goal in mind time outs are a chance for them to gain control of their emotions and divert the bad behaviour that often follows.