Time-out Refusal: Toddlers & Preschoolers
If your child leaves the time-out, chair or spot, take her back quickly and reset the timer. This approach works for most children who try to escape from time-out. If your child refuses to stay in time-out, take additional action rather than arguing or scolding.
A strong-willed child of 2 or 3 may need to be held in time-out temporarily to teach her that you mean what you say and that she must obey you. Place your child in the time-out chair and hold her by the shoulders from behind. Tell her that you will stop holding her when she stops trying to escape. Then avoid eye contact and any more talking. Pretend that you don’t mind doing this and are thinking of something else or listening to music. Escape attempts rarely last more than one week with this approach.
A last resort for young children who continue to resist sitting in a chair is to put them in their bedroom. In most homes, the child’s bedroom is the safest and most convenient place for a time-out. And despite what you’ve heard, using it doesn’t cause any negative spin-offs, such as sleep problems. Use a gate to block the door. Occasionally a parent with carpentry skills can install a half-door. If you can’t block the door and your child is over age 2, you can close it and hold it shut for the three to five minutes it takes to complete the time-out period. If you don’t want to hold the door, you can put a latch on the door that allows you to lock it temporarily. A hook and eyelet screw will often do the trick. Be very careful not to leave the door locked for more than a few minutes, however. Most children only need their door closed two or three times, and then they become agreeable about staying in time-out.
While these techniques seem excessive for the average child, they are necessary for some children who are determined to run the house. By the way, when you close the door always say, “I’m sorry I have to close the door. I’ll open it as soon as you promise to stay in your room for time-out.” If your child has to be kept in her room with the gate up or the door closed for time-outs for more than one week, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.