When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion. Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur!
Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?” “What about misbehaving and not listening?” The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well. Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years.
Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences.
So how do you “do” time out and when? I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors.
I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out. It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age. (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)
Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope. In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact! Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).
Time out takes time and patience. If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair. For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone.
Don’t give up!!! This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.