Toddler Time-Outs – How to Do Them Successfully

Many parents find time-outs to be effective discipline for their kids, but for some parents time-outs don’t seem to be working. Here are some ideas on how to make time-outs successful for your kids.

Last Resort

Many experts agree that a time-out should be a method of last resort. They say that warnings should precede time-outs to give kids a chance to correct their behavior, and then the time-out should only be employed if the child refuses to cooperate. Apparently, if time-outs are used too much, they lose their effectiveness. Kids may come to expect a time-out as a normal occurrence that they will just get through and then go on with being naughty.

Follow Through and Consistency

Another area where you’ll find agreement among most experts is in regard to following through and being consistent. Threats and warnings do not work unless you actually make good on them. (Of course, they do work if your child corrects his behavior and you don’t have to go into a time-out.) But if your child continues the bad behavior even after warning him, then you need to follow through with the forewarned time-out – every time.


When parents put kids in time-outs, they might use a chair or a corner. You might consider putting a piece of cardboard or blanket or some object in that corner or on that chair, so that you can take that object with you in case a time-out is needed in public. Then you can lay that object down in a dressing room, car seat, corner of the playground, wherever.

Another note about the place of the time-out – sources say that using a child’s bedroom as a time-out “zone” is probably not a good idea. For one thing, it may cause the child to associate her bedroom with punishment, making for bedtime issues. For another thing, a child’s bedroom may just be another fun place to play, a sanctuary that isn’t really the punishment it’s intended to be.

Do Whatever It Takes

Don’t be afraid to do what’s necessary for your child to stay in the time-out. Some parents have even had success sitting down with their child in time-out and holding her while counting to ten. This is unconventional, but it worked for them.

Still another approach might be a calming, rather than a punishing time-out. Some would argue that this is actually more true to life – when things get stressful and we do something we know is wrong, it helps to take a “breather” – a time-out that is more of a break.

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