Putting your child in time-out is one of the most common ways to deal with bad behavior. But though it’s a tried-and-true disciplinary strategy, it doesn’t always mean it’s effective. If your child is exhibiting any of the following signs, then it can indicate that time-outs are doing more harm than good. Consider switching to a different mode of discipline if your child meets the signs on this list.
10 Your Child Doesn’t Mind Time Outs
For time-outs to be effective, your child needs to dislike them. With the threat of a time-out looming over their head, it’s supposed to motivate your child to behave better to avoid trouble. But if your toddler doesn’t mind time-outs, then you can’t expect it to be effective.
For example, if you’re just telling your child to do a time-out in their room, they may not mind if there are ample things to do and play with. If this sounds like your kid, either modify the time-out to make it more effective or consider another strategy altogether.
9 It Doesn’t Calm Them Down
Ideally, time-outs are meant to give children a moment to breathe and process their big emotions. But for some kids, time out can make them even more frustrated. If you notice time-outs are only making your child escalate, it’s time to try a new tactic, or else you’re contributing to making the situation more hostile and stressful than it needs to be.
8 Child Resorts To Biting & Kicking
For some kids, it’s not that they only have trouble calming down during time-outs. They may feel so overwhelmed by their emotions that they turn to physical acts of aggression, like biting and kicking. You can’t simply keep putting them in time out if they’re acting out like this.
Addressing kicking and biting with toddlers takes a gentle approach. Read our guide for more information on how to help a toddler who’s physically aggressive.
7 An Increase In Anxiety Symptoms
Aha! Parenting explains that time-outs have been linked to anxiety and depression in kids. If you notice your toddler is exhibiting signs of anxiety, especially when discipline comes into the conversation, the times outs may be doing more harm than good.
Signs of anxiety in toddlers can include:
Trouble sleeping, eating
Anxious body movements, tics
Complaints of not feeling well (ie upset stomach)
6 Toddler’s Behavioral Problems Increase
Your child doesn’t have to be exhibiting signs of anxiety to know time-outs aren’t working. In general, if your toddler’s behavior seems off or more problematic, it could be a sign that time-outs are stressing them out. Perhaps a teacher or other family member has commented on your child’s change in behavior. This is a clear sign to change your disciplinary strategy to see if it leads to improvement.
5 They Go Back To Bad Behavior
Even if your toddler has no problem sitting through a time-out, this strategy isn’t effective if they go back to their bad behavior as soon as the time is up. This is a sign that time-outs aren’t helping curb their behavior.
Parentsexplains that children often need to redirect their energy when they’re acting up. They need something else to do to distract them. Consider giving your toddler an activity to do immediately after the time-out to help break the cycle of bad behavior.
4 You Have To Chase Your Child
No child is going to be excited to have a time-out, but most kids will go willingly when their parent expresses enough authority. However, if your child constantly puts up a fight – especially if they expect you to chase them around the house – then time-outs aren’t working. You’re likely spending more energy than you need to try to wrangle your toddler, only for the time-out to be ineffective. It’s time to move on to another strategy.
3 Kids Develop At Different Rates
One of the main reasons time-outs may not work for your child is because of their developmental level. Baby Center explains that the younger a child is, the less control they have over their impulses. They likely need to be told something many times to understand it. If they can’t grasp the concept of a time-out, they’ll be more resistant to it.
Make sure you’re using a disciplinary strategy that works for where your child is at from a developmental standpoint.
2 Your Toddler Doesn’t Understand
A part of what makes time-outs effective is that it gives kids a chance to calm down and to reflect on what happened. Ideally, they’ll come to see how they were in the wrong and why they need to apologize. But if your toddler doesn’t understand why you’re doing a time-out (maybe it’s beyond their skill level, or it hasn’t been explained in an age-appropriate way), you can’t expect time-outs to be effective.
If your toddler simply can’t understand because developmentally, they’re not there yet, then time-outs may not be the most effective modes of punishment.
1 The Time-Outs Aren’t Consistent
Another explanation for why time-outs aren’t working on your toddler is if you’re not being consistent. If you’re only reacting by putting them in time-out sometimes, your child won’t take this punishment seriously. They’ll think they can continue pushing your buttons to get a different result.
As a parent, you need to be firm in your convictions and continue to follow through with discipline, even if you’re not seeing results right away.
Sources: Parents, Baby Center, Aha! Parenting, Psych Central,