Is it Still Called “Time-Out” if it Happens Most of the Day?

At Annalise’s 18-month doctor’s appointment, I had so many good things to share with her peditrician. In the past three months, Annalise has learned so  many new things, and she is really a full-blown toddler. We were both amazed at her verbal and social skills. But then, there is the issue of discipline…

I brought up the issue because I was a bit discouraged. At 7 months pregnant, a rule-breaking toddler exhausts me! So I lamented with the doctor the day-in-the-life with Annalise, and asked his advice…

Back story:

When Annalise first started disobeying (meaning she knows not to do something, and she does it anyways – not just her exploring and learning about the world), I tried smacking the back of her hand. This didn’t really go so well – since she rarely got the point. She’d usually laugh or smile after I slapped her hand. And she’d even hit her own hand, while saying “No.” It was a game to her.

Then we moved to time-out. It was a struggle for me to just get her to sit still, but I knew it would be effective since she strives for attention. I did start to see some results…but then I was hit by round ligament pain, and I got lazy. And when you aren’t consistent with discipline, it never works.

After explaining the the doctor Annalise’s struggle with obedience, he reaffirmed Annalise’s readiness and need for time-out, and discipline in general. She is “advanced” in many ways, including testing authority. Joy. So we left the doctor’s office by 9:15am, and I was determined to stand up to the will of my 1.5 year old.

By her 12:30 nap time, we’d probably already had 8 time-outs. Almost all of them were because she had hit me. When Annalise hits, sometimes it’s out of frustration, sometimes anger. And many times it’s as she is expressing her understanding of the “No Hitting” rule, which means she hits me while saying, “No.” Needless to say, on this day, when Daddy got home from work, I left Annalise into his care while I got some space. Of course, she’s always much better behaved with anyone else.

Time-outs at this stage look like this: Annalise is taken to a designated area in the room (or in the car, if we are out…getting in and out of the car is a prime-time for hitting). She sits down and is told, “You are in time-out. We do not hit/throw/touch/run-in-the-street/etc.” I divert my attention, but stay close enough to make sure she doesn’t get up or find a nearby toy. After about one minute, I go over to her. I get down on her level, and get her to look at me (which is usually difficult because she “hides” by covering her eyes…ugh…another game). I tell her she is done with time out, and that we do not x…y…z…. She gives Mama a hug and kiss, and off she goes.

Honestly, I don’t know how effective the time-out is. She doesn’t complain in time-out, and actually seems to enjoy it (she often sings or hums). Annalise still hits and disobeys known rules, but not as often. I think she finds the whole system of time-out intriguing and new. After a week of this, she still hits me (while saying “no hit”), but now she’ll head right over to the time-out spot without being told.

Even though I haven’t created this obedient angel child, I can tell that she is exercising some self-control. When she does hit, she doesn’t do it hard – or she completely misses me. I think she’s testing the limits of her rules, and time-out is just a new activity. I am trying to be much more consistent. The hard thing is enforcing rules when we are out and about, or she’s about ready to go down for a nap. I’m torn as to how to handle those extraordinary circumstances.

But we’ll see how it goes. I have several books in the queue for disciplining strong-willed or spirited children. I’m sure we haven’t solved the problem, and it will always be a journey with Annalise as she grows and exercises her independence.

Anyone else out there have experience with disciplining strong-willed kids? I’d love to hear some feedback!



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6 Responses to “Is it Still Called “Time-Out” if it Happens Most of the Day?”

  1. phlyfitmama Says:

    ahhhh, toddlers. mine is 2…and a few months. He is also strong willed! It can be such a test to our….well, everything. Patience, especially. Sometimes I want to cry myself, if he really throws a bunch of fits in one day or hits or whatever. But then I keep telling myself these are growing pains and how frustrating it must be to be them. And yes, they do certainly try to push our buttons and their limits! Maybe they are smarter than we think. Sounds like you are doing a great job, though! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Heather

    • bakedwithyeast Says:

      Thanks for your comment, heather! I need lots of encouragement these days. Tell me it gets better?!?!

      • phlyfitmama Says:

        It DOES get better….and worse in moments. I won’t lie! But I’m hardly the expert with a 27 month old — its funny how often things change. One attitude or action improves and another one starts. BUT, I’m working hard through my blog and balance throughout my life, to be in the moment, even when those moments aren’t easy – appreciate them because they won’t be here forever, and look for breaks where I can get them! Today, Mason screamed and cried for me when the nanny got here (so I feel guilty going to take a shower – its awful!) and then he screamed AT me when he wanted his dad tonight. Ha! I threw my hands up! That is why I am drinking wine, as I type. Hang tough! xo

  2. catthrasher Says:

    Kelly! I’m so sorry! Lulu is doing similar things nowadays, but not quite that often – wow, you have your hands full!

    I actually do have a little bit of research-based knowledge on this, having studied the development of orienting and attention in babies and young toddlers. At 18 months, toddlers still have little or no “executive attention,” which basically means no ability to inhibit their actions. They do have hints of it, but it’s just too early to expect her to stop herself from hitting you.

    The good news is, she does orient to things she finds interesting, and wants to learn about everything she can. So, I recommend redirecting her attention to what you DO do to mommy: touch her softly. She hits, you say quietly, “sweetie, be soft, be gentle,” and then take her hand and “hit” (or touch) yourself again, just softly this time.

    It takes many trials to make this happen right, but I’ve been doing it with Lulu and it is starting to work really well. This basic training is called “positive reinforcement.” It works better than negative, but takes longer.

    You might also come up with your own positive reinforcement strategy if this doesn’t work. But basically, without that executive attention, the negative reinforcement will have less of an effect.

    When she gets older (2?), it’s worth trying time out again.



    • bakedwithyeast Says:

      Hey Cat! This is a good reminder for positive reinforcement. We do that sometimes, but not consistently. I used to do it more, when I saw results. I know that it sounds like 18mo is a bit young for all this, but I just have to trust her ped and my mom friends that see Annalise. She behaves and acts like a 2 year old, for better and worse! But we shall see. As long as I see improvement, I will keep doing what we are doing! Thanks for your input though, and i do realize that we are definitely on the early side of things. And I’m going to take a nap now while I have a “break.”

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