How Do You Discipline A Kid Who Loves Time Outs?

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My 2-year-old loves time outs. No, really, he gets such a kick out of them. With my older son, now 6, time outs were hell. We’d send him off to the stairs for a little cool-down period and he’d get hysterical. So hysterical, in fact, that we eventually dropped time outs altogether. (Not to worry, we still discipline our child – just in other ways.)

So you can imagine my surprise when, just the other day, I screamed “TIME OUT!” to my 2-year-old and he happily ran to the stairs. He then said, all sweetly, “Don’t forget to shut the door, Mommy” (referring to the door to our family that’s three feet away).

I was in shock. First, that my two boys could be so totally different. And, second, that my little guy seemed to genuinely be enjoying his time out. I decided to spy on him. What I saw was a happy little boy smiling, tapping his feet on the ground to the music in his head. He caught me staring and gave be a nice, big smile. “Hi Mommy!” he yelled. “Time out?”

“Yes, you are having a time out,” I told him, “because you hit your brother and that is not okay.”

“Time out,” he responded playfully, as if he couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

That’s when it occurred to me: This is a kid who loves time outs. Sure, he knows he did something wrong, but being penalized for it excites him. The following day, for instance, he took a giant leap off the ledge of our couch – a big no-no in our house – and then looked up at me, all wide-eyed. “Time out?” he asked with a smile. It almost seemed like punishment not to give him one.

So after years of figuring out an appropriate way to discipline my older child (taking away screen time works wonders), I’m now wondering how to discipline my younger one. If he does something like repeatedly like swing a baseball bat in the house after I’ve told him 100 times not to, I’ll simply take it away. That’s an obvious one. Ditto removing him from the playground if, say, he continuously throws sand on the other kids. But what to do for all of those in-betweens (like when there’s nothing to take away, for instance)?

Any advice out there, Moms?

(Photo: StockLite/Shutterstock)


  1. Sara

    November 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    He’s being manipulative. Telling you that he doesn’t care about your punishment in hopes that you’ll cave or give him more attention. I’d continue with the time outs when he’s got attention seeking issues or if he’s wound up and needs to calm down (mine did time out on the stairs).

    I’m also a fan of physical labor as in, you waste my time I’ll waste yours. Even a two year old can clean the floor or a sink with a rag and some water. They may not hate it but it’s not as fun as playing.

  2. Travis

    November 2, 2011 at 10:24 am

    You definitely need to spank him. Give a verbal warning first, then follow through if/when they don’t mind you. The most incredible people I know were spanked as a child.

  3. Vicky H

    March 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    My oldest did this.
    Take away another privilege, i.e. ‘no t.v.’
    Or, put their favorite stuffed animal in time-out instead.

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  5. lucygoosey74

    May 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I have a similar problem too. I try to make time out as unattractive as possible, no takling, no playing, the tv goes off, I completely ignore him. This is a tough one for sure!

  6. Jamin

    September 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Start teaching him actions and consequences. These are the lessons that stick with a child and help him develop critical thinking. A child disobeys orders because he doesn’t understand why they exist. To him, jumping off the couch is fun. He doesn’t understand that there are dangers associated with it. Sit him down and really explain to him why you don’t want him jumping off the couch. If the natural consequences don’t phase him, you may have to develop some artificial ones, but build them in such a way that that it causes him to remember the natural consequences every time. Maybe you sit down with him and explain what would happen if he breaks his leg. Maybe you wrap up his leg for an hour and play “broken leg”. He might think it’s just a game, but if it sticks, who cares? That’s just one idea, be creative and pay attention to what details your kid is actually absorbing.

    When I was a teenager, I was caught playing with fire. My mom made me write a report on what happens to burn victims. Nearly every detail of that report has stuck with me to this very day (some 25 years later). Almost anything else she could have done would have only triggered more defiance, but that one stuck. Teach him the “why” and he’ll never forget the lesson. Even a two-year-old can be reasoned with.

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