How Old for Timeouts

Q: “How old should my child be before I can give him a time-out for misbehaving?”

A: Time-outs can be a useful tool for removing children from a situation when they can’t control their actions.

Gently place your toddler in a chair without any distractions as you tell him why he is not allowed to do the behavior that concerns you. Refocus him on you and your words—to teach and calm him.

The key to using a time-out effectively is to remember that it’s a teaching moment, not a punishment. And all a toddler can manage is a moment; time-outs should last no longer than 1 minute per year of age. An 18-month-old, therefore, needs no more than a minute and a half of time-out.

In general, when discipline becomes necessary, find ways to distract and redirect your toddler, rather than resorting to threats or punishment, which are not effective teaching methods.

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