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Oh, Terrible Twos, how I despise thee. The tantrums! The picky eating! The potty training! You know I could go on. It’s a struggle. And all anyone seems to want to tell me is, “OH, you think this is bad? Just wait for the terrible THREES.” Please excuse me whilst I go weep in that corner over there.
Never mind that. Let’s focus on the positive. Like time outs! What fun.
Time outs are kind of a no-duh part of parenting. Especially with all that anti-spanking hullabaloo. Time outs are what all the experts preach, I mean, teach. However, I hear a lot of talk about timeouts but little explanation on how to execute properly. So here’s what we typically do in our house:
1) Keep their little bum in the seat.
When we first started, Alayna was sooo not willing to sit nicely in a chair for the duration of her time out. I don’t think she even understood the concept that she was supposed to stay. So our first few time outs were spent with her sitting in one chair at the dining room table and me in another right next to her. Every time she got up, I picked her up and plopped her little tush right back in the chair. I had to do this many times. Like, a LOT of times. But I didn’t give up, and she finally got the hang of it. Persistence is key here, my friends. Nowadays she’ll sob and wail and protest to no end, but her behind is in that seat the whole time.
2) Time out length
I usually do one of two things depending on what the purpose of the time out is. If we’re using it as a punishment for something she did (e.g. hitting her sister) I’ll just set a timer for the number of minutes that she is years old. For example she’s two right now, so time outs are two minutes long. Pretty standard.
Now, if she’s refusing to do something that I insist she must do, such as use the potty or clean up her toys, I’ll use a different approach. I put her in time out, and she just has to sit there bored to tears until she’s ready to acquiesce. You have to be ready for the long haul on this one too. The other night it took half an hour before she was finally ready to wash her hands before dinner. But she finally did it and the rest of the evening went so much better.
3) Keep it boring
I don’t give Alayna anything to do during time outs. No toys, no books, and I sure as heck don’t talk to her. The only time I might give her some attention is if she’s misbehaving mid-time out and I need to correct the behavior.
My husband Some people drive me nuts by continuing to interact throughout the time out. They’ll keep saying stuff like “If you just do ____ you’ll be allowed to get up!” or “Are you read to do ____ yet?” every 10 seconds. Holy moly, the child knows why they’re in time out. Any unnecessary interaction once the timer starts is just giving the kid attention that they want. Just ignore them.
Now if the time out is really dragging on a long time (as per my washing hands before dinner example above), sometimes I will resort to reminding reminding her why she’s in time out and what she needs to do to get out. I just try not to go overboard.
4) Kiss and make up
Sometimes I skip this step because I’m a bad mom, but ideally I try to always give a little physical affection after a successful time out. A kiss and a hug and an “I love you” along with a little explanation of how I don’t like putting her in time out, but I had to because ___ goes a long way towards setting the tone for a better rest of our day.
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