If your child is acting up, the best way to remove him from what he is doing is giving him some quiet time alone. This technique, known as a ‘time-out,’ is an effective, nonviolent way to shape behaviour. But there are some keys to successful time-outs:
(1) Understand what time-out is and isn’t
Time-out isn’t a punishment, but rather a time to allow the child some time alone to help him calm down, as well as teach him without setting negative examples, such as shouting.
(2) Implement time-outs, when your child is ready
Because toddlers find it hard to sit still, time-out for a fixed time won’t work and can result in a chasing game. So first, try to distinguish between your toddler’s natural inquisitiveness and willful disobedience. Distraction can work better with toddlers.
(3) Show and tell
Time-out works best for your child between ages two and three, especially, if it is explained ahead of time. Explain to him what it means. Some parents find it useful to act this out or to use a doll or teddy bear to demonstrate taking time-out.
(4) Be flexible on the specifics
With a toddler, your goal is simply to introduce the idea of an enforced break in the action so a minute or two is enough. The period should be long enough to refocus his attention, but not so long that he gets frustrated. One option may be to have him sit long enough to say his ABC’s once or twice, then redirect him to a different activity.
Along the same lines, some schools have introduced the concept of the ‘thinking chair.’ When a child misbehaves, he is asked to discontinue all actions and quietly settle into this chair and think about his behavior. This helps him gather composure and dispel negative energy.
Teaching your toddler to share
“Mine!” your toddler shouts, as he grabs a toy from his playmate, and eventually, one squabble leads to another. Before you scream with exasperation, remember that most toddlers are not developmentally ready to share. Sharing is a learned activity and takes time. So what to do:
(1) Practice taking turns
You flip one page of your toddler’s bedtime book, and he flips the next. Or take turns pushing a toy car down a ramp. Try also the give-and-take games. You hug his teddy bear and give it to him to hug and return to you. He’ll begin to learn that taking turns and sharing can be fun, and that giving up his things doesn’t mean he’ll never get them back.
(2) Don’t punish stinginess
If you tell your two years old that he’s selfish, or discipline him, when he doesn’t share, you’ll encourage resentment, not generosity. Never punish a child, especially a toddler, for not sharing.
(3) Cheer little steps towards sharing
Toddlers sometimes show their possessions and even let others touch them without actually letting go of them. Encourage this ‘proto-sharing’ by telling your toddler, how nice it is that he’s showing his toy. Eventually, bolstered by your praise, he’ll feel secure enough to loosen his grip.
(4) Lead by example
The best way for your toddler to learn generosity is by witnessing it. So share your ice cream with him. Use the word share to describe what you’re doing. Let him see you give and take, compromise, and share with others.