Time Out - 25 Month Old

Updated on November 20, 2011
M.T. asks from Saint Paul, MN
9 answers

Our son got his first time out at his day care right before he turned 2, and he has gotten several since he turned two - for hitting (with hand, toys), mostly. It sounds like he tolerates it at day care pretty well. It is only for one minute. The provider sits nearby without interacting with him and he doesn't try to escape or anything.

He threw an object at me and hit me yesterday, so I put him in time out for the first time at home. I sat him at the end of the couch while I sat in the middle part of the couch (not right next to him), counting to 60, not looking at him. He tried to escape so I caught him before he got off the couch and put him back in his place, without looking at him. That was OK.

I had to do that a few more times since he had several other incidences of hitting (mostly for wanting milk and me not giving it to him - trying to reduce his milk intake - you may have seen my other question on this in this forum). Now while in time out he tries to get his face in front of mine, smiling, while I count to 60 (still not looking at or interacting with him). He tries to move so I have to grab his shirt to keep him in place. After 60 seconds, I tell him what put him in time out, that he shouldn’t do that (e.g., hit), and “do you understand?” and he has a happy expression on his face, and says “understand”.

Then, maybe he thinks it's fun that he gets to sit next to me (it’s not like I don’t sit next to him at other times - I read A LOT to him, sitting next to him or with him on my lap), that he comes to me, hits me, expecting something (like it’s fun). I thought I shouldn’t sit next to him (since that seems like a reward for him), so I tell him to go sit and he does for a while, but without me holding him in place, he won't stay for 60 seconds.

So, my question is, how do you do a time out without it being a fun activity for him, and if I don’t sit right next to him, how do you keep him in timeout (without it being a big power struggle)?

Thoughts about time out at this age and alternatives are welcome too. Thank you!

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answers from Albuquerque on

Hi M.,
To understand what to do, they have to have some part of their body be in contact with a specific spot (ie butt on a chair, etc).

I literally put my boys, "in the corner" and walk just out of sight, but listened carefully for possible sneaking off.

I don't think using a pack-n-play is just right, because then you take away their responsibility to learn to stay in that spot and accept their punishment.

I was very consistent with it, and now I find I rarely have to yell at them.. I just walk up and say, "in the corner," when they do something out of line, and they go to their spots (they are now 4 and 6).

Also, I follow the rule time out for 1 minute of each year of their age (3 min for 3 y.o.; 4 min for 4y.o., etc).


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answers from San Diego on

We do it in my grandsons bed. He stays without getting up. We don't time it and in reality, he's there between 5 and 10 minutes AFTER he stops complaining.

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answers from Nashville on

I give my son (15 months) three chances to make a good choice (like stop climbing in the dishwasher after I've said "no" or listening when I tell him not to throw toys at people) and if he doesn't do what I've asked I give him a one minute time out in his crib. I say, "no ___, time out," in a very firm voice and then leave him alone in his room in his crib. When the timer goes off I go get him and remind him why he was in time out. I know he's a little young to totally grasp what's going on but he cries when I leave him in the crib so I know he feels punished (which is the point). This is what we did with my older son (5) starting around the same age and it really worked great. We added a minute each year and honestly haven't had to give him a time out in ages. He's a very well disciplined kid! I'm hoping his brother will be too. : )
Good luck!

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answers from Williamsport on

I would look into the book Back to Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson on this. There are times time outs could be effective (and it's easy to tell if they are successful or not, because the behavior that necessitates the time out stops) or if firmer measures are needed. The faster you nip this at this age, the more time he has for practicing good behavior. Time outs are all day cares should do, but if you are effective with discipline, others won't need to discipline your child at all. Your goal is not to get him to cooperate with time outs, it is to have him behave well. He doesn't sound very serious about the time outs. There are good alternatives and ways to stay calm and positive while being firm in that book.

Once I saw a couple put their child effectively into a time out in a McDonalds play yard. It was pretty amazing how he immediately cooperated, ran out of the play maze, stood in time out, on just one warning, and then went back to playing nicely when they said he could. I asked how they got such a great response, since I hadn't seen them work so well, and they said their next warning would be a swat, so the child complied with the time out. You need something firmer than the time out to back up the time out sometimes.

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answers from Washington DC on

Time outs have been really effective for my son (now 5) and we started them at 1 year old, so 25 months is definitely old enough for them to work.

My advice is...

1) Time-out doesn't really work as PUNISHMENT. They work to stop repeated inappropriate behavior. Give him a chance to correct the behavior without going on timeout. "Hands are not for hitting. Use gentle hands." Then only if he hits AGAIN do you put him on time-out.

2) Find a better time out spot. The couch is for relaxing. He sees adults CHOOSE to sit there all the time, so it isn't really a place for being REMOVED from interaction. The front doormat was our spot at that age.

3) Don't sit next to him. If he get's up just put him back and say "you are on timeout."

4) I wouldn't count out loud (nor would I give a timer). Just go back and get him when time is up. That way you don't have to explain why timeouts are getting longer as he gets older... BTW... at 25 months, 2 minutes is more appropriate than 60 seconds.

Hope this helps,


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answers from Denver on

We used a pack n play for our little escape artist at that age. Use an egg timer and move away so he doesn't see you at all. He will learn soon enough, and then move him to somewhere not so comfotable. We use the front door mat now (4 year old).


answers from Santa Fe on

Because you are near him it is fun. You have to walk away and be in a different room or at least some distance away. You will have to keep putting him back over and over and over....not saying anything. My daughter is the same age as your son and she now knows to just sit there.



answers from Portland on

Lots of parents would consider a cheerful time-out successful. You still have interrupted the undesirable behavior, your son has had a consequence, and he realizes he wants his mommy to be happy with him (hence the smile). The point is getting him into a new mental space where throwing won't feel necessary to him, more than punishment for punishment's sake.

Be aware that timeouts simply do not work equally well for all children. Nor does spanking or any particular discipline. Depending on the child's personality, the dynamics between parent and child, and how the child interprets any particular discipline, you might get great results or just the opposite. Some kids will contemplate the error of their ways during a time-out, while others will seethe while plotting revenge.

If you want to continue trying time-outs, consider finding a new spot for your son to sit, or leaving the room. Set a timer that he can watch count down, and tell him he can get up when the timer rings. That should both take his focus off of you and begin giving him a hands-on sense of time. If he gets up, put him right back, but don't keep resetting the timer – that can change the whole issue from his original misbehavior to a new and escalating power struggle. Just use the time-out to interrupt his play for a minute.

Check out http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/discipline-behavior for many useful discipline techniques. I also love Dr. Harvey Karp's technique for letting a child know you have really heard his request: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1428uYs2g&NR=1&a...

ADDED: I've been pondering what I used to do with my daughter after a time-out or other discipline. I didn't know what she actually understood if I just asked her "Do you understand?" The correct answer is, of course, "yes," and so the child may learn to just say that. But a better question is "What did you do that was wrong?" Then you find out what the child knows. And even better, follow up with, "What should you do next time?" If he doesn't know how to express frustration and upset verbally, teach him the words. "I feel mad/bad/sad/frustrated." That alone can begin to make a difference in a child's chosen behaviors. They really want to be understood.



answers from Dayton on

I'd go old school on him and turn a chair into a corner and have him sit facing the wall. If he turns around to goof or look at you place him back on his bum facing the wall. That might take the fun out of you being next to him.

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