Toddlers in time outs

My daughter is turning 2 in three weeks. She’s smart and can speak very well for her age and is pretty opinionated, but she’s also got a crybaby attitude. If she doesn’t get her way there’s tears and drooling and screaming. I usually have a filter where I kind of just let her cry it out because she cannot get her way all the time. Today I tried something new, putting her on a time-out. I don’t really know how to make this effective. What do other parents do?

  • Katie
    Jan 04

    Mine is a little under 3.5 years. If mine needs a time out, I usually tell him he has until the count of 3 to do whatever I need him to do (or stop doing), and why he needs to do it. Then I count and if he doesn't comply he goes in timeout immediately. It wasn't immediately effective, but with consistency over several months, it has become very effective. He very rarely ends up in timeout now, and it is usually for one of the few things he gets put into timeout with no warning/count for (like hitting one of us or the dogs). Hang in there. Consistency and repetition is key. It doesn't seem like it is working, but you are helping them learn self control, and once their developmental stage lines up with everything else, odds are good your kid is going to suddenly magically "get it". Its just a really tough age.

  • MamaNukesYopolo
    Jan 04

    I don’t think time outs are effective for this. I use what some might call a time out, but only for unsafe actions. It’s not really a time out as much as a keeping your and everyone else safe move. I do not use that for kids under age 3 or so though. My just turned 2 yr old daughter sometimes does this. The best trick for this behavior is not to think of it as cry baby, or anything bad, simply that she’s frustrated and feeling unheard. You need to validate her feelings before anything else. “You really want a cookie right now. You are sooo mad that you can’t have one. You know what you can have? A banana or a bright red strawberry! Let me know when you are ready to pick. I’ll be here waiting.” After something like this, then if they’re still upset, I walk away. When they quiet and look receptive I will repeat something similar to that. My daughter can be the most rigid and also the most flexible little one. She will cry and get mad, and then once she calms and hears her choices, she’ll say “otay!” And move on. One other great trick I learned was trying to avoid answering any requests with “no” And instead with a “can”. Instead of no cookie, you can have a cookie after you eat dinner. It has drastically reduced these behaviors for me. Good luck!

  • Katie
    Jan 04

    I also agree with MamaNukesYopolo to a certain extent as well - timeout is absolutely neccessary and effective for some applications, sometimes behavioral redirection is the right thing to do - it is definitely on a case by case basis, and I've done both. As the other responder said, this isn't actually "bad" behavior, this is part of them learning emotional intelligence and is completely developmentally neccessary. It sucks, its hard, but also normal.

  • Anonymous
    Jan 04

    My 2 year old does not respond to time out at ALL still. I think he’s too little to understand. What really works for him when he gets flustered and over come is I just tell him to look at me and take a deep breath with me. Then I ask him if he has the words to say what he wants. Usually he can find a couple that will at least let me know what the heck is going on. If it’s a “no” from me then I try to just let him know I understand what he is wanting but at the time it isn’t doable. For example “ohhhh noooo you really want to watch buzz? Well what do you think about watching buzz after nap time instead? Mom will pause it and we can watch it when you wake up” usually as long as I let him know I understand and give an alternative that’s enough for him. “Ahhhh you really are wanting to play outside??? Let’s look at the temperature together! Yikes, it’s cold out, maybe we can check the temperature together when we see the sun is back out! Let’s do legos for now where it’s warm!!!!!” Distractions distractions re directions! That’s the key to toddlerhood lol even for “bad behavior” I redirect or ask him a question that will switch his focus. “Oh no! We don’t throw rocks, but WHOA have you seen this leaf over here????!!!!?! What tree do you think it came from?”

  • Daiana
    Jan 04

    She needs to cry, it’s an adequate reaction of a 2 yo when smth goes not the way she wants. This only means she’s developing properly mentally. Communicate w her, explain to her what she feels and why (cause she really doesn’t know and it’s overwhelming for her) and help her learn to cope

  • Amanda
    Jan 04

    I really like Ashley’s question about how to make time outs effective/how to effectively orchestrate a time out for a little one. I’d love to hear how parents have effectively implemented time outs or alternative behavior approaches! I used to nanny a 3yo little boy whose time out took place on the bottom stair of the staircase. I would sit with him in silence and my being present with him let him know that he was supported in his attempt to calm down. But if he tried to talk or move off of the stair, I would walk away and he’d have to sit on the stair by himself. Also, a good thing to note is that the most common approach to time outs I’ve heard is making the amount of time comparable to the child’a age. For example, a 2yo will sit in time out for 2 minutes. A 3 yo will sit for 3 minutes, etc.

  • Katie
    Jan 04

    Also, something my husband has struggled with, so it needs to be said: not all battles need to be fought, and if whatever your kid is on the verge of freaking out about isn't that important, it's ok to give in before it escalates. It is ok to let them have that cookie or wear the shoes occasionally. But, make that decision immediately... and if it escalates, you need to stay firm, because otherwise you are teaching your kid that if they throw enough of a fit they will get their way.

  • Laura
    Jan 04

    I've found that time outs work well when my daughter isn't listening to instructions, but aren't good when she's already upset about something. For example, if we're getting ready for bed and she doesn't come to brush her teeth when asked, I'll say you need to come by the count of three or have a time out. Sometimes she chooses the time out, which I think is about asserting independence, but then follows the original instruction after the minute is over.

  • Ashley
    Jan 07

    Thanks for all the advice! I think I agree that I have to learn ways to communicate with her to help her understand why she has to wait to have what she’s asking for or if she cannot have it at all. I get that she is expressing emotions and although they are uncontrollable they are valid. My mother would say if I take one thing from her (or don’t let her have it) that I should give her something else instead. I’m not sure if that works best in most situations. What would you guys say about that?

  • Ashley
    Jan 07

    Mamanukesyoplo, I agree. I believe this is what my mother means about offering something else at the time you are saying no to what they want. Kids love being given a choice. Thanks.

  • A
    Jan 07

    Time out has never worked for us. My kids just wouldn’t stay in time out, or they would think it was a fun game 🤦‍♀️ Like someone said, I usually try to validate their feelings and then walk away, or ignore it. If they are whining and it’s something reasonable, that they want, I say, “Mommy doesn’t listen to whining, I’ll listen when you ask nicely.” And then I wait until I get a polite, “Mommy can I have some milk please?” Before I respond again. Something that did work for us for awhile was putting a favorite toy in time out. It was much easier to control taking a toy away than forcing a child to sit in time out. Toy Time Out kind of lost its luster with my kids though.

  • Chris
    check_circleChild Care Provider Jan 09

    Timeouts isolate children and can be counterproductive. Check out Positive Discipline for information on time-ins and how to build connection with your child even when they are defying you.