Recently my husband and I have been at a loss about our two-year-old not listening, and creating for us what seems like unnecessary battles.

My mom, Jane Nelsen, has told me that time outs don’t really work for two- year-olds—that they aren’t old enough to understand. She claims that for children at this age we just need to supervise, supervise, supervise, distract and redirect..Many times I run out of patience and feel hopeless and discouraged and do not have the patience to redirect…so I thought.

One day when Greyson wasn’t listening (my mom says that what I really mean is “not obeying”), I put him in his room and he got very upset, even though he wasn’t there for longer than a few seconds, and decided to do what I wanted him to do. I learned that if I kindly and firmly put him in his room while saying, “You can come out as soon as you are ready to ______,” he often willing changed his behavior and was ready to cooperate.

For example, he didn’t want to put his diaper on, so I put him in his room and told him that when he was ready to put his diaper on he could come out. And as soon as I shut the door he came out and said, “I am ready to put my diaper on.”

Wow, I thought to myself that was easy I can’t believe it actually worked. The next day my husband was trying to get him dressed and Greyson, of course, wasn’t cooperating. So I whispered to my husband, “Tell him he is going to go to his room but can come out as soon as he is ready to get dressed.”

“Sure enough, Greyson opens the door immediately and tells my husband that he’s ready to get dressed. We both look at each other like, “WOW, I can’t believe that worked.” (Secretly, I was praying that it would work—especially since I told Mark to try it and wanted him to think that I already knew what I was doing…ya right!!

The next day we were getting ready to take a bath and Greyson started running around naked as I am sitting on the floor in-between the bathtub and the toilet. I grabbed his hand and said, You can go into your room until you are ready to get into the bath.” Once again, as soon as I shut the door to his room, he opens it and says, “I am ready to get into the bath.” Wow!!!! Is this really working? It seems too easy!

Punitive time out may not be appropriate, but “time in your room until you are ready,” seems to be an adaptation that is respectful to both of us. Greyson can choose to come out as soon as he is ready, and I get cooperation on what needs to be done.

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