Warnings and Time Outs During The Terrible Twos

How to give a successful time out to your toddler

Consistent punishment and following through is crucial in taming those terrible twos. Discipling your toddler now will help you in the long run.

During the terrible twos (and threes and fours for the lucky ones amongst us) one of the worst things are the terrible twos temper tantrums; lying on the floor, kicking and screaming until they are the same colour as a tomato.

So what you need to know is; how do stop a simple argument escalating into a tantrum.

The simple answer is to use a warning and time outtechnique to discipline your toddler.

The idea behind time out is that it gives your child a chance to calm down in their own space and think about their actions before they get angry and worked up.

Check out how to give warnings to a toddler, as this is a vital part of the time out process.

See dramatic improvements in your toddlers behaviour.

How time out works

Say your child has a habit of hitting their younger brother when they are playing. You as the parent need to step in and discipline your toddler right at the start so that the behaviour does not escalate out of proportion and start a terrible twos tantrum.

This technique starts before you have even let your toddler lose. Before you give your toddler the chance to go and play explain to your toddler the behaviour that you want (e.g. not hitting their younger brother, share toys etc). Explain as briefly as you can, but make sure they understand (no long, boring lectures because they wont remember half of what you have said). Then let your child go and play.

Keep an eye on your toddler. Remember that they are learning social boundaries and what is acceptable so don’t expect them to get it right first time.

The likelihood is that at some point your toddler will snatch a toy or hit their younger brother. This is where you come in.

Calmly go over to your toddler and stand them up, but make sure you come down to their eye level. This helps to stop you being perceived as being threatening.
Make eye contact and tell your child that hitting their brother is not acceptable and that you don’t want that behaviour. Then tell your child that if they hit their brother again they will go in the naughty corner. Then get up and walk away.

This is known as the warning. Have a look at how to give your toddler a warning for more information.

If your toddler hits his younger brother again take them by the hand and take them away to a quiet corner/step/room/time out chair. Ideally you want somewhere away from toys but close enough that your child can hear they are missing out.

Sit your toddler down then come down to their level. Calmly (and in no more than two sentences) explain to your toddler that hitting your younger brother was not nice behaviour and that they will sit there for x minutes.

How long should your toddler be in time out?

Putting a two year old in the time out chair for half an hour will have no affect what so ever because that will seem like a life time to them and they wont remember what they did to be put in time out in the first place.

The best guide to go by is this:

A child should sit in the time out chair for one minute per year of their age.

So for example, a one year old will sit in time out for one minute, a two year old will sit for two minutes and so on.

Improve your toddlers speech to help
improve your toddlers behaviour.

What happens next?

Once your toddler has done their time on the time out mat, go back to them and say that hitting their brother is not nice behaviour and you want them to say sorry.

If your toddler has calmed down enough then they will say sorry in a meaningful way. Give them a hug and a kiss and carry on the rest of the day as though it never happened.

By not dragging the punishment out and having a kiss and cuddle at the end, your child wont feel unloved or unhappy and will learn to respect you and the boundaries you have given.

Common problems with time out

  • My toddler wont stay where I put him in time out, what should I do?

Some toddlers will get very worked up and angry about being taken away from ‘play time’ and will put up as much resistance as possible.
The first thing to remember is not to argue back. That is just adding fuel to the fire and wont help the situation in the slightest.
All you need to do is keep calm, don’t respond to your child and keep putting them back in the time out chair.

I have seen many battles of wills between parents and their terror tot, which have gone on for well over an hour. This is because they want to push boundaries.
Although it is frustrating and you will probably want to give up, you have to think of it this way though; if you give up now, you will have to put up with this every time they don’t get their own way for at least the next twenty years.

  • She will say sorry but I know she hasn’t calmed down and doesn’t mean it.

If your toddler doesn’t say sorry like they mean it, it simply means they need more time to calm down, so give them the same amount of time again (one minute per year of their age).

  • Wont punishing my child make them not like me?

If I’m honest it will be quite the opposite.Giving your child discipline will help them to grow in to respectful, decent human beings.

Giving your child the hug and kiss and the end lets them know they are still loved. They will also be happier because you are not angry with them for the rest of the day.
Looking long term, once they get to grips with what behaviour is acceptable they will be happier children because they don’t get told off, they live in a calmer household (as their parents are less stressed) and they find it easier to share and make friends.

Looking further into the future, your child will also understand rules and boundaries which will make the transition in to school and society easier for your child.

Have a look at this site for more information on timeouts for toddlers