A time out for 2 year old is very often an effective way to manage behaviour.
It’s very normal for 2-year-olds to display disruptive and defiant behaviour.
This is their way of pushing boundaries and testing limits which are fundamental building blocks for growth and development.
Sometimes this growth can get out of hand and you may have to intervene.
Therefore, the “Time Out Technique” can be a very effective way for both you and your child to calm down, take a breather and re-evaluate what the best action steps should be before returning to the situation.
Not all experts believe that time out’s work, but a cooling-off period is always advisable for children who are simply out of control.
Related: Signs Of Terrible Twos
Time Out For 2 Year Old: CheckList
Is a Time Out a Punishment?
If you don’t see it as a punishment for defiant or aggressive behaviour then neither will your child.
A time out for 2 year old should be seen as a means of reconciliation and a way to deal with more complicated emotions like fear, anger or jealousy.
A time out is simply a moment to ‘breath in and breath out’.
Its main purpose is to release tension for your child and to help his mind calm down from any rage that was stopping him from seeing the appropriate forms of behaviour.
Is it age-appropriate?
Time-outs in general work better for older children.
Although you can and should be, putting them into use for younger children starting around 16 – 18 months.
It’s important to remember that they may still not be effective on 2-year-olds then it will on 3-year-olds.
The simple reason is 2-year-olds have short attention spans and usually can’t sit still for more than a few minutes unless their mind is occupied.
A time out by its definition is time spent with no distractions.
This means younger toddlers will find it hard to comprehend the purpose of sitting in 1 position for so long.
How To Assess Effectiveness
All children are different and have different developmental triggers.
There are some tell-tell signs that your child is more ready for a time out and will reap the rewards by sitting in one.
Sometimes if your toddler screams in timeout and your toddler won’t stay in timeout they may not be quite ready for it
Look for signs that your toddler vocalises your rules back to you.
For example, if you say to him “Sweetie, don’t touch the TV screen as it can break”
Then later on, if he repeats it back to you without you directly telling him you can conclude that he is ready for the time out technique.
If your toddler recites the rule it means that he understands what is right and wrong and this is a good indication that a time out will work as a punishment.
Remember your main aim should be toward self-discipline and avoiding unnecessary power struggles or tantrums.
Ensure your home is probably child proofed with important objects locked away so it decreases the chances of deviant behaviour.
Can You Take Time Out’s Together?
Of course! Especially for younger toddlers who are still learning the meaning of the time out technique and the reason for them.
A really useful tip is to reframe the concept of a traditional time out for younger children to better understand them.
For example, call it something different like a “Time In” Or “Positive Time”
Your emphasis should be towards calmness and cooling off.
Pick games or activities that aid reflection and problem solving so you can both be apart of it.
A Puzzle is a perfect example here as it engages you both, doesn’t have any “bells or whistles” to stimulate too much activity.
Once you’re finished you can give your toddler praise for a job well done!
If that’s not possible or you are outdoors, then use “Time ins” as a reflection point and just sit down in a safe area to have a chat and giggle.
Try To Plan Ahead
Try not to throw the time out technique around like they are disposable as you’ll devalue the severeness of the punishment.
This will have an impact on the value of the cooling time they may need.
Instead, plan ahead and give your child notice that a time out is imminent.
The best type of punishment are the ones you don’t use as they can be used to curb potential disruptive behaviour just by mentioning them.
For example, “Sweetie, I’ve asked you 2 times now to stop throwing food on the floor. Everyone on the table is eating neatly and if you are finished please just say so. If this behaviour continues I will call a time out”
Here you give clear instructions and provide a context of what appropriate behaviour is.
(A good tip is to call a time out on a toy first like a teddy or a doll. You can demonstrate with “teddy” the effects of bad behaviour and what consequences they will face it continues. This provides a nice visual aid for your toddler and can help with clarity)
Flexibility Is Key
Your child has good days and not so good days just like everyone else.
Sometimes your toddler won’t stay in timeout and by pushing them to do so you may just be adding fuel to an already volatile fire.
Instead, work with your child to find adequate solutions for everyday defiance.
Show flexibility when certain rules are broken at certain times.
The purpose of the time out technique is to promote reflection and calmness.
If you can achieve this in another way and it works well for that particular situation then don’t feel obliged to hand out it out.
Be flexible but follow through on the things that you say you are going to do.
It’s morning and you are up early to go on a long trip away or abroad and your child starts to act out, then don’t feel the need to issue a time out so quickly.
Chances are they are just tired and can see a hive of activity in the house at a time they aren’t used to.
Children respond to their environments and if you are stressed and are showing signs of frustration they will reflect that back in themselves.
This is one reason your toddler won’t stay in timeout or your toddler screams in timeout
Instead, sit them down and just explain what is going on, “Sweetie, we are running a bit late and I understand you are tired.
I just need to finish packing this one bag and then I will put your breakfast on for you, is that ok? You can help if you’d like”
“Flexibility is the cornerstone to good parenting and smart discipline strategies. This doesn’t mean being flexible to the point of breaking your discipline routines, but just bending them from time to time as your situation dictates it to”
Does The Behaviour Need A Time Out Or Will A Warning Do?
Sometimes a warning will suffice and you don’t need to go full “time out for 2 year old mode”.
Check the situation and issue warnings first.
The best type of punishment deters behaviour without the punishment actually being issued.
For example, if your child is not putting their toys away then issue a warning first:
“Sweetie, I’ve asked you a few times to put your toys away as we are having dinner, please put your toys away swiftly or I will have no choice but to give you a 2 minute time out for not listening”
If the disobedience continues then you can follow through with your warning.
It’s a good way to keep your punishments from being too quickly handed out and ensures you communicate to your child the consequences of their actions.
Time Out For 2 Year Old: Action Plan
Tell Your Child A Time Out Is Coming…
Once you have issued warnings and feel enough is enough then tell your child they are now going into a Time Out.
Explain to them why but don’t get into an argument or heated discussion over why.
If you’ve got this far it’s important you follow through as your child will continue to show you defiance and always try to argue their way out it.
Once they are in the time out chair or zone don’t interact with them too much.
This is a consequence for defiance and now they need to calm down and think about what they have done.
They will not be able to do this effectively if you are having a full-scale argument or heated discussion with them over why they have been punished in the first place.
Importantly, you will need to show resilience if your toddler screams in timeout or tries to run away.
These are all-natural responses.
Just continue o remind them to sit down, calm down and once it’s over they can return to play.
Time Out For 2 Year Old: Do’s And Dont’s
If they refuse to go into the time out then lead them in by their hand or pick them up and place them into the time out area.
Tell them to stay in this space until you let them know the time is up.
- Don’t let anyone talk to them
- Don’t let anyone distract them
- Don’t let them play with anything
This is a reflection area and anything that distracts them away from that will not serve the purpose as intended.
If your child wont sit down or keeps trying to get up you will need to show patience and resilience.
Continue to pick them up and place them in the zone as many times as possible.
Try not to engage any unnecessary chit chat and if they beg or plead with you just remind them that “This is a time out zone, please sit down until I tell you to get up”
This can be very difficult to do but with more practice, your child will get used to sitting in one place, calm down and reflect on their behaviour.
If they start to shout, kick or protest, try your best to ignore it.
The time out area has very strict rules and if they are broken you need to reset the clock.
Older children will understand the importance of this a bit better then younger child so stay flexible with your timekeeping.
End Of Time Out
Time out’s usually last about 2 – 5 minutes and as a general rule of thumb, you give 1 minute for every year old your child is.
So for example a 3 year old will be in time out for 3 minutes. 4 year old for 4 minutes etc.
Once the time out is officially finished hug them remind them why they went into the time out zone in the first place.
“I put you in the time out zone for unnecessarily hitting your sister.
This is not an acceptable way to express your feelings and I have to keep you and your sister safe. “
Sometimes your child may need longer to cool down and depending on the severity of the situation may need more time before they can re-join the previous activity.
There are no rules here so just use your judgement.
If you feel that they have learnt the lesson then that should be enough.
Praise And Rehabilitation
It’s important that you focus on the good behaviour that your child shows immediately after a time out session.
Your child has just been through a roller coaster of big emotions and they need some positive reinforcement and attention.
Try to give them direct praise for something they do directly after a time out.
It doesn’t have to be an attempt to go over the top but just a reminder that they can get positive attention from doing the right things as oppose to the wrong things.
Did It Work?
Don’t expect miracles. A time out for 2 year old does work but it should be apart of your disciplinary toolkit.
Toddlers are notorious for testing boundaries and are often unpredictable with the things that they do and say.
Testing your limit is an integral part of their growth and an important way for them to understand the limits of their actions and the world at large.
If you find that ‘Time Out’s” aren’t as effective as you’d hoped it may just mean that your child needs some extra special care and attention.
Toddlers go through so many changes both physically and developmentally and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what they are feeling and at what times.
Patience, calmness and a big heart is the foundation for successfully discipline.
Many children just need a simple hug to reassure them that everything will be ok!
Here’s a quick video on How to Give Time-Outs
Mo Mulla is a work from home dad who enjoys reading and listening to music, He loves being a dad and husband to a growing family. He also loves writing about his passions and hopes to change the world, 1 blog post at a time!