Toddler time-outs: 4 important facts to know

Follow these tips to make the most of giving your mini-me a short period to reflect on their bad behaviour.

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Your child’s toddler years will be a true test of your patience. Your little one will always find a way to push and bend the rules you’ve painstakingly put in place. So, you discipline them, in the hope that you can end their bad behaviour once and for all.

Giving junior a time-out is a positive parenting technique that has become popular among parents who prefer not to punish their child physically, such as by caning. Do take note of these important facts about giving time-outs…

1) Implement time-outs when your child is young

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, notes that giving time-outs to a young kid and continuing it when he’s older makes it more likely that he will comply. Using time-outs to discipline older children will likely fail as the child may refuse to cooperate. Dr Lim points out, “Any attempt by parents to manhandle their children can lead to injuries or even fights.”

“Its [role is] simply to take the child out of an overwhelming situation, away from a stimulus, so as not to further aggravate the behaviour.”

2) Make the most of this discipline method

Dr Lim points out that parents often use time-outs wrongly. “Its [role is] simply to take the child out of an overwhelming situation, away from a stimulus, so as not to further aggravate the behaviour.” A study done in the US last year found that parents explain too much when they impose time-outs to discipline.

So, follow these steps to ensure that you maximise the effectiveness of time-out sessions:

* Don’t give elaborate warnings — just explain briefly what they are doing wrong and warn them that if they continue, they will be sent to the time-out corner.

* Start the time-out right after your mini-me misbehaves.

* Don’t give explanations during the time-out and don’t negotiate with your child on the duration of their time-out.

* Make sure the time-out corner is free from fragile furniture or any stimuli that may distract or entertain him.

* Once he’s in the corner, tell him that you’ll be back later to check on him when he’s calmer, then walk away.

* The time-out should be as long as the time your child needs to be calm enough to talk to you.

* When the time-out is over, explain to your child why they received a time-out. Next, ask them if they understand why they got a time-out ― this will give them the opportunity to express themselves.

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3) Balance these with “time-ins” with your child

Dr Lim says that a commonly overlooked aspect of giving your child a time-out is not giving them a “time-in”. “[Time-in is a parenting technique] whereby children receive the appropriate attention, love and soothing from time to time from their parents, like a hug or a pat on the head.” You can also pre-empt your mini-me’s tantrums with a time-in. Once you spot bad behaviour that’s about to start, take them aside, talk to them and spend some quality one-on-one time with your child. It will make them feel calmer and less likely to act out.

“[Time-in is a parenting technique] whereby children receive the appropriate attention, love and soothing from time to time from their parents, like a hug or a pat on the head.”

4) Time-outs don’t cause abandonment issues

Search online about the negative effects of time-outs and you’ll find reports suggesting that this discipline method may cause abandonment issues because you don’t want to be around your mini-me unless they are well-behaved. Dr Lim disagrees. “I do not believe that time outs alone causes abandonment issues. Such issues are [the] result of long standing dysfunctional relationships between the parent and the child.”

Time outs: Good or Bad?

Parents should not take a one-size-fits-all approach to child discipline, Dr Lim notes. Effective discipline methods is made up of:

* A good relationship with your child Your mini-me will be more willing to listen to you, if you both share a good relationship. In turn, Dr Lim adds that disciplinary methods become easier to implement as your kiddo trusts that whatever you do is for their own good.

* Be consistent and firm when dealing with them Your child is less likely to become confused when you’re consistent. Dr Lim notes, “They will come to understand that bad behaviour comes with consequences.” Remember that you shouldn’t be too overly harsh with the punishment either ― this sends the message to your child that you taking out your anger on him by punishing him.

Cheryl Goh, 39, has used time-outs on her children — Kevin, 9, and Ally, 12 — since they were in preschool. She has seen improvements in their ability to manage big emotions.

Adds Goh, who notes that time-outs have also helped her become a calmer parent,

“I tell them that they can excuse themselves from a situation when they feel like they’re getting upset or angry and as parents, we won’t get angry with them for walking away.”

Photos: iStock

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