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Time-outs and Tween Moods

Q: I’ve seen a friend try to give time-outs to her 2-yearold. She’s holding the child in a chair and telling him it’s a time-out. I thought the idea was to take attention away. Is he too young? Is this really working?

A: Time-outs are often controversial for parents. However, the idea of time-out is to remove the problem from the child or the child from the problem. It allows a calming period to occur for child and parent. I suspect that your friend may feel the need to hold the child in a chair because he leaves the time-out chair. You are correct in thinking the idea is to take attention away, but your friend is correct in letting her child know why he is in the chair. She might try putting him there, telling him it is time-out, and then walking away. If the child continues to get up, then she should gently walk him back to the chair, saying nothing (which is ignoring the behavior). This should be done every time he gets up.

The idea is to let him know that no matter what his behavior, mom will be consistent in redirecting him back to time-out. It is very important to remember that when the desired behavior is produced – the child sitting in the chair – mom should immediately respond with positive praise, saying something like “good job” or “thank you for sitting so nicely in your chair.”

Once the child has calmed down, mom can then talk to the child about why he was placed there. Some experts also suggest that children bring a special toy into time-out. This helps time-out be thought of by the child as less of a place of a negative experience and more of a place of calmness and peace. Keep in mind that the length of the time-out is generally one minute per each year of the child’s age. Time-outs can sometimes be Challenging for both the young child and the parent to get accustomed to, but as always, consistency is the key.

Q: Even as a toddler my daughter was very temperamental. She’s 13 now and her ups and downs throw everyone in the house for a loop. How can I tell the difference between normal moodiness and the kind of depression that should be looked at more closely or treated medically?

A: I think I would have to better understand what you mean by ups and downs. Of course, we all know that 13 can be a temperamental age. Our tweens go through many physical and mental changes during this time. It’s called adolescence. However, I certainly understand your concern with wanting to understand if your daughter’s behavior could be more than just typical. There are a few questions you could ask yourself. How is your daughter’s behavior in school, with other friends, family members, in other social settings? Consult your daughter’s primary care physician about your concerns. Finally, if you still feel there is reason for concern, request an evaluation from a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare professional. An evaluation will tell you if concerns are warranted, and should direct you to the proper treatment for your daughter.

Valerie McAllister
Valerie McAllister is a family educator with Commonwealth Parenting.
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