A parent asked me, “What happens if I put my child in timeout, and he won’t stay?” (Does this make you think of the nanny programs on television?) A good guideline for choosing a method of discipline is “Never require your child to do something unless you are strong enough and smart enough to enforce your requirement.”
Be prepared to follow though on discipline you choose.
If your three-year-old is throwing toys, you can stop the misbehavior if you take away the toys, physically lead him to timeout, or put your hand on top of his throwing arm. It gets more difficult as the child gets older. If the discipline you choose is one you can’t enforce, you need to find another approach.
What should I do if my child leaves timeout?
Back to the question the parent asked: What should happen if you put a child in timeout, and he won’t stay? Turn the child gently toward the timeout room and walk him back there. You may have to do it several times. Hang in there. He’ll eventually decide that you’re serious. If he fights, physically restrain him in a hug. When he relaxes, remind him that you’re still waiting for him to return to timeout. Mention that the time is getting longer as he lingers.
You’re the boss. If you assign him to timeout, you mustn’t let him find a way to avoid it. If his temper, fighting or rebellion causes you to say, “I’ll let you out just this one time,” you are on your way to losing your position of authority.
Children need boundaries
Your child is much more secure with boundaries that are enforced. I had many adolescents tell me that they wished their parents would give them a curfew or tell them what they could wear to school. Does that surprise you? It surprised me until one young man explained that his parents’ lack of rules said to him that they didn’t care what happened to him.