Rid your household of fits and tantrums

Source: www.sodahead.com

Do you have a child who seems stubborn or strong-willed? Do you have a toddler whose lack of verbal skills frustrates her? Do you have a two-year-old? We have all seen a child in the throes of a temper tantrum. Whether it involves kicking, screaming, head banging or hitting, a tantrum is easy to spot. For parents, these fits are frustrating and hugely embarrassing when we’re out in public.

Let me tell you now: you don’t have to live with tantrums. You can train your child to not throw them.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Ezzos when they say, “To say that throwing temper tantrums is a normal phase of development that children will eventually outgrow demonstrates a lack of understanding of childhood propensities,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

Tantrums are an expression of the child’s emotions. It’s fine that our children express themselves, but there are right ways and wrong ways. You simply should not accept a tantrum as a normal expression of emotions.

Tantrums as a form of rebellion
Whether they recognize it or not, our children throw tantrums to reject our authority.

“When a parent responds [to a tantrum], the goal should not be to suppress a child’s emotions, but to help him gain self-control in moments of disappointment and learn the proper methods of expression,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

If you don’t address these fits when your child is little, he will learn that it is an acceptable form of expression. As he grows, the kicking and screaming might go away, but the attitude behind the tantrum will not. There are plenty of adults in this world who throw tantrums.

How to stop the fits: every fit needs an audience
To stop tantrums in their tracks, isolate your child immediately.

“A tantrum needs an audience to be successful, and isolation removes the child from center stage,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

As simple as it sounds, pick up the fit-throwing child and plop him in his crib or pack-n-play. Do it the very minute the tantrum starts and do it every single time. Don’t ever let a fit slide or you will undo the work you have been doing to rid yourselves of them.

Consider strategies to make this easy on yourself. We live in a two-story house, and when we were working on tantrums, I kept a pack-n-play set up downstairs in another part of the house (behind a kitchen wall). I knew that I wouldn’t want to carry a kicking and screaming child upstairs and to his crib. I knew I would be much more consistent if I could isolate him downstairs.

But be sure that every location you set up is completely isolated from the rest of the family. If the child can still see you, he will think he still has an audience and will continue to throw the fit. If you can still hear him, ignore every sound he makes.

And while it may be tempting to simply walk away from the fit-throwing child, be careful. The child will likely follow you when he realizes you’re not there. And you need to use isolation as a form of discipline to teach him that tantrums are not acceptable.

Empathize with the emotion
After your child has calmed down, let him know that you understand why he threw the fit, no matter what the cause. In the same conversation, explain that tantrums are not an acceptable form of communication. Tell him that next time, he must use his words to tell you how he feels.

The conversation might go something like this:

You: “Sammy, I understand you are upset because I wanted you to eat your broccoli. I know not everybody likes broccoli, but it will help you stay healthy. Next time, I expect you to eat your broccoli without throwing a fit. You may tell me that you don’t like broccoli, and I will consider your thoughts, but you may not throw a fit. Do you understand?”

Sammy: “Yes, mommy. I’m sorry for throwing a fit.”

You: “I forgive you. Now go back to the table and show me how you can obey mommy by eating your broccoli nicely.”

Sammy: “Yes, mommy!”

Be sure not to skip this step when dealing with a tantrum. Every form of discipline we use must serve a lesson. So if he didn’t learn how to express his emotions in an acceptable way, the discipline won’t help. It may stop the tantrum in the short-term, but it won’t keep them from happening again in the future.

Read more about tips on timeouts and isolating your child.

Count timeout minutes in public

Source: appsfuze.com

On Monday, I discussed the importance of correcting in private and praising in public. On Wednesday, I explained how to do timeouts in public when necessary. Today, I will offer a technique that will enable you to discipline your child in public while still maintaining privacy. This technique is also more effective and long-lasting than issuing a timeout in public.

Count timeout minutes

Here’s how it works. When you’re out in public and doing your best to praise your child’s behaviors, but he misbehaves anyway, tell him he will have two (or five) minutes on his bed when you get home. Say it quietly but confidently. Then explain to him that you will add or subtract minutes until your errand, play date, or restaurant visit is over.

I use this technique quite a bit with my boys, so here’s how it works for us:

  • William starts acting up in the grocery store, jumping from colored tile to colored tile.
  • I don’t yell at him to stop. I don’t try to grab him to get him to stop. I don’t try to call his name and get his attention (especially if it’s crowded and there’s no room to stop).
  • I simply say, “That’s two minutes on your bed.”
  • He stops what he’s doing immediately and looks to me for an explanation.
  • As we walk, I tell him that he can earn minutes back by showing me good behavior.
  • I also tell him that I will add minutes if he continues to make poor choices.

Follow through

This is where the rubber meets the road when using this technique. When you get home, you must issue the timeout! If you don’t, the technique simply won’t work. Your child won’t believe you next time and will think, Yeah, that’s just mom trying to get out of disciplining me in public. Set a timer and make sure you give your child the exact number of minutes you promised. Then follow every other rule described in this post on timeouts the Ezzo way or this one on timeout tips.

For little ones who don’t understand time

Lucas, age 4, is still young enough to not really understand the concept of time. But this technique works with him. He understands what a timeout is and knows that a longer timeout is worse than a shorter one.

If you think adding and subtracting minutes might be too abstract a concept, use something more concrete. You might make laminated cards each worth one minute and hand them to the child as he misbehaves. You might carry marbles and hand him one for each minute in timeout. Be sure to explain that these are timeout marbles and not some prized possession!

Chime in!

Do you have some inventive technique you use to discipline your child in public? If so, please share!

Timeouts in public

Source: buzzle.com

I have written several posts on how to do timeouts the Ezzo way, but it’s always tricky to discipline our kids in public. If you haven’t read those posts, please do so you understand the full intent behind timeouts and how to do them effectively. (Do a search for “timeouts” for more, click on the “timeout” tag at right, or see the related posts at the end of this post.) As with everything in Childwise parenting, every form of discipline needs to serve a purpose. We want to do more than punish our children. We discipline to teach them a lesson.

So what are we to do when we’re out in public? Having a child sit in isolation until he has a happy heart (however long that takes) just isn’t possible in public. Not disciplining at all in public isn’t an option either. Imagine the embarrassment. And we all know the pitfalls of being the yelling, threatening, repeating parent!

How to do a timeout in public

I am not the type of mom who will go to great lengths to leave my children at home when I run errands. I don’t have family nearby, my husband works long hours and has a terrible commute, and it’s just not practical to pay a sitter every time. So my kids usually go with me on errands. As you might imagine, this can create behavior problems. William, my eldest, just hates to be bored, so he will do whatever he can to interest his smarty-pants brain. Lucas, well, when he’s alone, he’s great. When he’s with his brother, forget it.

Correct in private; praise in public

In my last post, I explained the idea of doing your best to praise your child in public to prevent misbehavior. But I also explained that this isn’t always possible. What you must remember from this wonderful phrase, however, is to be as private as possible when correcting in public.

If I’m in the midst of shopping, I will find a spot for one or both kids, point to it, and quietly tell them, in my stern mommy voice, to sit. I usually look for a spot that has some sort of barrier. Against a wall or in a corner is great. A different colored spot in the tile or carpet works great. Sometimes there are open spaces on shelves right where I’m shopping. In a pinch, I have them sit right at my feet. The more private the spot, the better.

In places like Starbucks or other casual restaurants, I will find an empty chair in the corner and make them sit alone. In more formal restaurants, I will take them to the car or the restroom and have a chat with them in my stern mommy voice. The effect of me picking them up quickly and swiftly or pulling them by the hand while I walk fast will often send a shock to their little systems.

The rules

Timeouts in public have a different set of rules. At home, all you need to do is have them sit on their beds (and stay there) until the lesson has gotten through to them. In public, you must monitor their behavior (there are still people to consider around), and you don’t have the luxury of time. So in many ways, public timeout rules are more stringent.

Timeout rules for them:

  • They may not move (Those micro-rebellers love to slide out of their designated spot inch by inch. Don’t allow it!)
  • They may not speak or attempt to communicate with anyone (No humming or hand gestures!)
  • They may not make faces or even eye contact with the other brother
  • They must fold their hands and keep them folded until the timeout is over

The rules for me:

  • I do my absolute best to ignore them
  • I don’t make eye contact
  • I don’t talk to them
  • I continue with my shopping while keeping them in the corner of my eye
  • If I’m done shopping in that area, I pretend I’m still shopping

When the timeout is over, we have our usual chat where they tell me what they did wrong, apologize with a complete sentence owning up to what they did (“I’m sorry I hit my brother” not just “I’m sorry”), I will say “I forgive you,” and we move on with hugs and kisses.

The length of the timeout will vary depending on the severity of the misbehavior, and frankly, whether you have the time to put your shopping on hold. It’s always best to take the time to address a child’s misbehaviors, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

If they break any of their rules, I will up the ante. I might tell them they will have a timeout at home, I won’t let them look in the toy section of the store, or they will lose some other privilege. If all else fails, I will simply leave the store. The more immediate and dramatic the consequence, the more effective it is. If their behavior is particularly bad, I will vow to myself to tighten the reigns over the next week or two at home.

In my next post, I will offer a public timeout technique that has worked really well for my boys. It’s often more practical, effective and long-lasting than the timeout I just described. Stay tuned!

Correct in private; praise in public

Source: celebritypregnancy.sheknows.com

The infamous mom of 19 (now pregnant with her 20th), Michelle Duggar, has been heard advising parents to “correct in private; praise in public.” I have seen the Duggars’ show and I am so impressed by how sweet and patient Michelle is, so I love this phrase.

We have all been caught in spots in public where our children’s behavior embarrasses us. They sometimes disturb those around us, refuse to share on play dates, or even get themselves into dangerous predicaments.

As with everything the Ezzos teach us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of correction! Correcting in private and praising in public certainly applies to this. If you are in a public spot, praise your child for every good deed.

Before you go out, make special note of your child’s most troublesome behaviors. After you leave the house but before your child exhibits the misbehavior, be on the lookout for opportunities to praise him. Do your best to catch him doing something good, especially if it’s related to one of his worst behaviors.

Say you’re at a play date and your child sits nicely to play with others. Before he has time to get too interested in the toys to get greedy with them, say, “Nice sharing! I like how you are thinking about your friends.”

While shopping, praise him for walking quietly next to you even if he only does it for a minute. In restaurants, praise him multiple times for sitting still and using his inside voice.

Focus on the positive

When we praise our kids, we want to keep everything positive. So keep your language positive as well.

  • Don’t: Good job not running in the store and disturbing others.
  • Do: You are walking so nicely in the store. Thank for considering those around you.
  • Don’t: You’re doing pretty well not bouncing in your seat at this restaurant.
  • Do: I like how you are sitting so quietly and using your best restaurant manners.
  • Don’t: I see that you’re not making your friends upset by snatching toys.
  • Do: You are sharing so nicely. It makes your friends so happy when you can all play with the toys.

Be real with praise

If praise is to be at all effective, it must be real. Don’t praise a child for being quiet 10 seconds after he was shouting. Our children see right through false praise. They know it is meaningless. The key to praising in public is to get to them before they have the chance to misbehave.

Correct in private

If all of your attempts to praise your child have no effect, do what you can to correct in private. Be proactively examining and addressing your child’s worst behaviors while you’re at home. Remove him from the situation when necessary. If you’re out shopping and cannot address the child’s behaviors, you may just need to leave.

Correcting in public

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes life just doesn’t allow us to not correct our children’s misdeeds in private. Think about the times your child has misbehaved in public. Sure, it’s difficult to call attention to ourselves and the child by disciplining right then and there. But also, sometimes people judge us more if we don’t correct the behaviors.

Many parents may tell themselves that they have the strength to get up and leave if necessary, and they take pride in not correcting in public, but when push comes to shove, they may end up doing nothing at all. When it’s plainly obvious that the child is misbehaving and disturbing others and you don’t have the strength to leave, then by all means, correct him! It’s more respectful to let others see that you value their peace and quiet.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to do timeouts in public.

Timeout success! (from a reader)

My friend Amanda just sent me this great testimonial after reading about timeouts the Ezzo way on my blog. Her son is 20 months old. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration for you.

I started implementing time-outs the Ezzo way and wow, big improvement! Instead of trying to goof off on time out Tobias quickly calms himself down and comes to me to tell me he’s sorry and give me a kiss! He stops himself from crying/throwing the tantrum, comes willingly, looks me in the eye, and says “shosh”, then I say “are you going to obey mama with a happy heart now?” and he says “kay” and gives me a kiss. Then he will do whatever I tell him. He doesn’t go right back to misbehaving, his obedience level goes through the roof (temporarily of course, lol!) and he’s so much happier. Heck, I’m happier because I’m not struggling to keep him in time out or listening to whining throughout the day. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks so much for the tips on the Childwise Chat blog, they really helped me to pin down exactly what I was looking for from a time-out.

What’s so wrong with the traditional timeout?

In my previous posts about timeouts, I didn’t delve too deeply into why exactly the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are typically done in our culture. Here is an explanation, straight out of the book:

“Using timeouts, as culturally practiced, is not an effective substitute for repeated offenses that call for correction. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, using timeouts as a primary method of punishment is one of the least satisfactory types of consequence. There are two reasons behind this statement.

“First, the child seldom associates sitting in a chair with the act for which he is being punished since the frustration of the parent is usually a more dominant factor in the situation than the act itself. As a result, the child tends to associate parental frustration with timeouts rather than with the wrong deed itself. The child is not sitting in a chair contemplating the benefits of a virtuous life, nor is he beating his chest and chanting, ‘Oh, what a sinner I am,’” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

Focus on the behavior, not your frustration

The Ezzos make a very good point about the parent’s frustration becoming the focus of the timeout. I would say that this applies to any form of discipline where parents lose their cool. When you get angry with your child, he will likely point the finger at you rather than himself. He will sit in his timeout thinking about how angry and unfair you are being without thinking about his own actions and what caused the conflict in the first place. It becomes a blame game, and in his head, you are the one to blame.

On the other hand, when you are calm and administer fair discipline, the child has no one to blame but himself. The lack of anger (from the parent and child) allows everyone the clarity they need to see the situation at face value. It allows the child to take blame for his own actions and come to a point of repentance. Any hatred or anger toward the parent is completely eliminated.

Let the punishment fit the crime

The Ezzos make another point about cultural timeouts:

“Second, there is little to no punishment-equivalent. A five-minute timeout for hitting his sister with his hard plastic bat taught Stevie the wrong value for his offense. From the experience, he learned that the pain and bruise to his sister was equal in value to five minutes in the chair,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

With our discipline methods, we need to show our children the seriousness of their crimes. And every family has its own value system. In our home, the two biggest offenses are disrespecting your parents and lying. In choosing a discipline method for such offenses, I am able to communicate the seriousness of the action. If I did a timeout of one minute per year of age (see my previous description of the Supernanny method) for every misbehavior, I wouldn’t be able to communicate the seriousness of the offense. I could do so with my words—which works to some extent—but as with everything in parenting, actions speak louder than words.

Don’t allow your child to weigh the odds

The other problem with using a timeout for every misbehavior is that the child will weigh the odds. If he knows what’s coming when he disobeys, he may choose that it’s worth it to sit in timeout for five minutes if he can sneak a cookie or even tell a lie against his sibling. When we mix up our discipline methods, we keep our kids on their toes and always use a discipline method that will send the right message and teach the right lesson.

Don’t forget these important points the next time you administer a timeout or any other type of consequence.

Timeout tips

In my last post, I compared the cultural perception of timeouts with timeouts the Ezzo way. Here I’ll offer some tips on how to implement this form of timeout.

Briefly, here is what you don’t want to do:

  • Have him sit for the sake of sitting
  • Have him sit in or near the main area of the house
  • Chase after him to make him sit when he won’t
  • Issue a set time limit of one minute per year of age
  • Tell your child what he did wrong
  • Require a simple “sorry” by way of apology
  • Ignore the state of the child’s heart
  • Give hugs and kisses and assume all is right

When you do timeouts the Ezzo way, you want to:

  • Isolate him by sending him to his room or some other spot away from the main activity of the house
  • Seek a happy and repentant heart
  • Determine the length of the time out based on how long it takes for your child’s heart to be in the right place
  • Allow your child to determine how long he needs to sit
  • Rely on first-time obedience to keep your child in his timeout
  • Have your child tell you want he did wrong, not the other way around
  • Have your child offer a sincere apology
  • Have him apologize to others he offended or have him right the wrong in some other way
  • Follow these tips whether you’re at home or at the store, a friend’s house, in the car, at the park, etc.

Putting these ideas into practice will vary depending on your child’s age. Here is how timeouts work in my home:

My 5-year-old

When William does something wrong, I will immediately send him to his room to sit on his bed. I don’t issue warnings (he’s old enough to know what he’s doing), yell or repeat myself. He’s not allowed to do anything while sitting (play with a toy, read a book or listen to music). If he goes reluctantly, that’s my indication that I will likely need to set a time limit, and I will tell him he will sit twice as long if he doesn’t go right away. I don’t chase after him, drag him by the hand or even follow him upstairs. (Here is where all your work in achieving first-time obedience pays off.)

While he’s sitting, I will walk by his room or peek in on him with the video monitor to check the look on his face. If he’s still angry, I’ll keep him there. If he seems peaceful and ready to repent, I will go in to talk to him.

When I talk to him, I don’t tell him what he did wrong. I have him look me in the eye and tell me. At five years old, he knows what he did wrong. There are times when he won’t look me in the eye, or he will say he doesn’t know or that he forgets. When I hear this, I will walk away and tell him I will come back when he can tell me what he did wrong. I know he knows. When this happens, it’s usually something serious that he did that he really doesn’t want to own up to or say out loud.

When he’s ready and willing to tell me what he did wrong, I will ask him why it was wrong. This is where your moral training pays off. You want a true reason. Something along the lines of “I disrespected you” or “My unkindness hurts my brother’s feelings” is acceptable. You need more than just “It’s wrong” or “It’s bad.”

When I can tell that he’s sincerely repented his actions and knows why they were wrong, we will talk about what he can do to make it right. Usually, this involves looking me in the eye and saying, “I’m sorry for ____.” If he hurt his brother, I will require him to offer his brother a sincere apology while looking him in the eye. There is more to this idea of restoration, which I will discuss in a future post.

Once he has apologized, I will offer my forgiveness by giving him a hug. This allows us to wipe the slate clean and not hold any grudges, which is a huge motivation in disciplining your child.

My 2-year-old

Timeouts are very different for Lucas, who is just 2. His timeouts happen in his crib upstairs or in the playpen we have set up downstairs. When he is old enough to be out of a crib, we will start having timeouts on his bed. Obviously, first-time obedience is not as much of a concern here because I simply pick him up and put him in.

With Lucas, I react just as quickly and swiftly as I do with William. Again, he knows what he did wrong. His offenses are different, but if he deserves a timeout, it means he knows better.

I won’t set a time limit for Lucas either. I will peek in on him or check the video monitor to see the look on his face. With Lucas, I can often check the status of his heart just by listening to him. If he’s crying or screaming, he’s not giving me a happy and repentant heart. In this case, I will go to him the minute he quiets down.

As I get ready to discuss his offense, I double-check his heart. When I bend down to look him in the eye, he will either look me in the eye or he will turn away or even lie down in the crib. If he looks me in the eye, I know he’s ready. If he turns away, I know he needs more time. If this is the case, I will walk away, telling him I will come back when he’s happy.

Since Lucas isn’t very verbal, I will tell him what he did wrong and why it was wrong. I will ask him if what he did was wrong, expecting him to nod his head. I will ask him if he understands, upon which I always get a “yes, mommy.” I will then tell him to tell me he’s sorry, which he says in his own toddler way. If there is more that needs to be done (like pick up the food he threw on the floor or tell his brother he’s sorry), I have him do that as soon as I take him out of the crib. (Again, here’s where your work on first-time obedience pays off.) Then we do hugs and kisses.

As you can imagine, getting his heart in the right place is what’s most important for Lucas. There is less to discuss simply because he’s not as verbal as William. The discussion is more one-way, which is fine. As he gets older, I will require him to tell me what he did wrong, why it was wrong and make it right.

To conclude, make sure you follow every step of the timeout process to ensure your child learns from it. If his behaviors aren’t improving, it’s possible you’re missing a step and need to reevaluate your timeouts. Above all, stay calm. Your child will obey and respect you more readily if you react swiftly and calmly. And don’t forget those hugs and kisses. Your child needs to know that you love and forgive him and that the end of a timeout means a fresh start.

Supernanny timeout

Supernanny's Timeout Technique

In case you haven’t seen the show, here’s a clip from Supernanny that shows her timeout methods. Ignore the horrible audio. But make note of the father chasing the child down and telling her what she did wrong and how it was “naughty.” Note the child’s utter defiance, kicking her dad and with her hands over her ears. And take a look at the girl’s face when the timeout is over. It’s as if she’s surprised that it was over and that’s all it took. Now, I’m not saying to “use the belt” as this father would have, but there are definitely a few things you can do differently.

I do agree with Supernanny about the importance of staying calm. But the Ezzos would have us require the child to tell us what they did wrong and why it was wrong. And we certainly shouldn’t accept a cursory response of “It was naughty.” Most of all, we need our children to show a happy and repentant heart, which I don’t see in this little girl. I’ll discuss this in greater depth in a few days.

Timeouts the Ezzo way

When natural and logical consequences don’t work, timeouts can be an effective tool. One thing to understand about timeouts the Ezzo way is that the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are culturally done.

Timeouts the Supernanny way

Before we talk about the Ezzos’ version of timeout, let’s talk about the cultural perception of timeout, often seen on Supernanny. The idea here is that you send your child to sit on a spot in or near the main area of the house. The child sits for one minute per year of his age (e.g., a 5-year-old sits for 5 minutes). If the child doesn’t sit, you spend an hour or more sweating (and going mad) as you keep putting the child back on the spot. Then once the child sits and his time is up, you offer a two-sentence reminder of what he did wrong and demand an apology. If you have seen the show, you know that the apologies the children give are rarely heartfelt. The parents hug and kiss the reluctant child, and all is well with the world (not likely).

Now for parents who are just beginning to command authority from their children, this version of the timeout at least establishes a bit of respect for the parent. But for those of us seeking first-time obedience (or for those of us who already have it), this version of a timeout does little to teach, which is what discipline is all about.


The Ezzos’ version of timeouts is more about isolation.

“Children are social beings. Isolation means temporarily taking away the privilege of social contact…. Isolation can be used as a form of correction when a parent isolates a child to his room, not for play, but for contemplation. This approach should be used to draw attention to the more serious offenses,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, p. 161.

You’ll notice the Ezzos don’t even use the term “timeout.” The only time you will hear this word from them is in the phrase “reflective timeout” which is done BEFORE the child has committed any wrongdoing. Its intent is entirely different.

Isolation is not some cursory punishment with the child sitting near you and his siblings. As I mentioned in a previous post, we want to discipline, not punish our children. The goal of discipline is to teach, not make them suffer for the sake of suffering. So to have them sit just for the sake of sitting does little to teach them about why their actions were wrong.

The goal: a happy and repentant heart

If you have seen Supernanny, you might recall the “apologies” that are given after a timeout. (Yes, those quotes are meant to convey sarcasm.) The parent requires the child to apologize with a mere “sorry” which is often mumbled through tears or a dejected face that doesn’t convey repentance. That insincere “sorry” sounds more like the child was sorry he got caught, with a bit of surprise that the parent actually followed through on the timeout.

With the Ezzos’ version of timeout, the ultimate goal is a happy and repentant heart. When you send him to timeout, he is likely feeling mad, sad or indignant that you would send him to his room. By the end of his timeout, he must express true repentance, offer a sincere apology and even ask how he can right the wrong. It is only when you see this in your child that the timeout should be over.

So how long is a timeout?

The Ezzos might argue that one minute per year of age is hardly enough time for a child to seriously contemplate what he did wrong and find a happy and repentant heart. You must also consider the seriousness of the offense when deciding how long your child should sit in his room. A subtle form of disrespect might warrant 5-10 minutes while an aggressive action done in anger might warrant 20 minutes or more.

The key idea here is that the parent decides how long the child needs to sit. And when making that decision, it’s not a matter of how much of a punishment the child needs (or how much of a break the parent wants). It’s a matter of how long it will take for the child to reach the point of repentance. Every child is different, so it is up to the parent to decide.

I suggest that you even allow your child to determine how long his timeout should be. A child about 5 years old and up (assuming a healthy level of first-time obedience), should be allowed to determine when his timeout is over. Now, if he sits for two minutes and you can tell his heart isn’t in the right place, send him back. But what you might discover more often is that the child will sit for much longer than you expect. The child knows how much time he needs to achieve a happy and repentant heart and will sit for as long as he thinks is necessary.

First-time obedience is necessary

As you can imagine, sending a child to his room to sit on his bed will take a healthy dose of first-time obedience. If you don’t have it with your child, you will end up like those parents you see on Supernanny chasing after their children for hours on end. This is one reason why first-time obedience is so important.

If you are still working on first-time obedience with your toddler, it’s fine to do timeouts in a crib or playpen. Just be sure they are done away from the main area of the house. You still need him to be isolated. And keep him there for as long as is needed for him to have a happy and repentant heart. Some might scoff at the idea of a 2-year-old feeling repentant, but those of you with toddlers know what I’m talking about. You can see it in their eyes. These kids wear their hearts on their sleeves.

In my next post, I’ll offer more on the mechanics of issuing timeouts the Ezzo way.