Parenting: When to start using Time Out

Throwing the sippy cup, a minor temper tantrum when playtime is over, and of course not sharing her favorite blocks with friends.

Of course my friends who have older children consistently use the "time out" method to discipline, especially when the behavior seems to repeat itself or the environment is not conducive to a long lecture.

So when do you start using time out?

After all, 13-months seems pretty young to send Sienna to a corner or another room all by herself. Does she even understand what it means? I'm not sure she would even stay put in that "time out" spot if I did decide to use this form of discipline.

I've read some parenting websites that say you can start time out as early as 8-months-old or as soon as the baby can crawl. That seems a little young but it's probably a good idea to start using "time outs" earlier than later so I can establish some consistency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says Time Outs are most effective between the ages of 2 and 5, however they can be used before and after those ages. As with any method of discipline, I think it's important not to OVER use it and of course to follow through with the amount of time you set for each time out. Otherwise, the child will catch on and time outs will become ineffective.

On the American Academy of Pediatrics' website (Healthychildren.org) there guidelines are recommended:

    Set The Rules Ahead of Time
    Decide which 2 or 3 behaviors will cause you to implement time-out and explain this to your child. You may have to repeat this often.

    Choose A Time-Out Spot
    This should be a boring place with no distractions, such as a chair. Remember, the main goal is to separate the child and allow her to pause and cool off. (Keep in mind that bathrooms can be dangerous and bedrooms may become playgrounds.)

    Start The Time-Out
    Give your child one warning (unless it is aggression). If it happens again, send her to the time-out spot right away. Tell her what she did wrong in as few words and with as little emotion as possible. If your child will not go to the spot on her own, pick her up and carry her there. If she will not stay, stand behind her and hold her gently but firmly. Then, without eye contact, say, "I am holding you here because you have to have a time-out." Do not discuss it any further. Do not respond to pleas, promises, questions, excuses, or outbursts (such as foul language). It should only take a couple of time-outs before she learns to cooperate and will choose to sit quietly rather than be held down.

    Set A Time Limit
    Once your child can sit quietly, set a timer so that she will know when the time-out is over. A rule of thumb is 1 minute of time-out for every year of your child's age (for example, a 4-year-old would get a 4-minute time-out). But even 15 seconds will often work. If fussing starts, restart the timer. Wait until your child is quiet before you set the timer again.

    Resume Activity
    When the time is up, help your child return to play. Your child has "served her time." Do not lecture or ask for apologies. Remind her that you love her. If you need to discuss her behavior, wait until later to do so.

This last part is important. Children are really sensitive, and I believe much harder on themselves then we think. Most of bad behavior early on can be attributed to kids experimenting and testing the limits. A good balance of enforcing discipline and instilling self-esteem are really important.

Plus, the kids are so darn cute at this age, I challenge any parent to staying angry for very long.

Good luck!

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