Time-outs no longer work with my stubborn 3-year-old. What should I do when she has a tantrum?

Young children don't yet have the ability to regulate and control their emotions, so once they are upset, they can become flooded with emotion and it is difficult for them to calm down on their own. Being left alone in time-out to deal with these big emotions can also be scary for children, making the situation worse. Once children are in flight or fight mode, it becomes difficult for parents to reason with them, and the time-out will often turn into a power struggle. Remember that the goal is to get your daughter to calm down. Instead of a “time-out,” try a “time-in.” Create a cozy, calming spot that the two of you can go to together to help her regain control of her body. While this may feel like you are rewarding her tantrums, what it does is teach your daughter the very important skill of how to regulate her emotions.

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

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