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WebMD Expert Discussion: Time for a Time-out?

A time-out is one of the most common methods of disciplining a child, and it can be very useful. But parents don’t always use time-outs effectively, says guest parenting expert Tanya Altmann, MD. If you’re inconsistent with time-outs or use them constantly or angrily, they may backfire, she says.

Altmann recommends thinking about the letters in the phrase "CALM DOWN" as you deal with a misbehaving child:

C- Calm, cool and consistent parent behavior.

A- Always respond to bad behavior promptly.

L- Loudly and firmly say, “No, we don’t (hit, bite, etc.).”

M- Move him to a safe and boring location.

D- Don’t lecture during time-out.

O- One minute per year of age.

W- Words that are age-appropriate to explain what he did.

N- Need to encourage good behavior with acknowledgement and praise.

If you’re in public and can’t find a good time-out spot, scoop up your child and head home. Avoid the need for time-outs by creating a safe, child-friendly home. Try to limit errands done with your child to one errand at a time.

One mom says that because of a long trip to the grocery store, leaving when her daughter acts up isn’t an option. She uses the store’s play area as an incentive for her daughter -- good behavior earns a trip to the play area, and poor behavior means no playtime at the store.

Another woman shares her mother’s tricks: Children who behave well earn stickers from the quarter machine at the front of the store. Bad behavior meant a time-out in the car with mom until they calmed down and she could retrieve the shopping -- and of course, no stickers. She notes that many sympathetic stores will hold a cart full of items for harried parents if they ask.

How do you use time-outs with your child? Do you use small incentives to help children maintain good behavior? Share your time-out and behavior strategies with the community.

Discussion led by Tanya Altmann, MD Guest Expert
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Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is a best-selling author, a working mother, and a UCLA-trained pediatrician, practicing in Southern California.

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