My goddaughter is 2.5 years old and lives in another state. We video chat every week, which she looks forward to, but I only see her in person intermittently. She is also an outgoing and assertive child, which I love, but it leads to her testing her boundaries on acceptable behavior even more then the average 2 year old.

I have pretty extensive experience with children, and so my instinct when she pushes her boundires too far is to put her in a timeout as I would with the other kids I mentor. However, her mother almost never uses timeout's with her, preferring to discuss and reason with my goddaughter about why her actions are bad, even in situations where I would usually use a time out (in addition to explaining why the actions were bad during the time out obviously).

I have the mother's full permission to use punishment/timeout when I'm visiting my goddaughter, and I often take my goddaughter out for some fun time somewhere while her mother works when we visit where I'm the sole adult anyways. I have no doubt that I can use a timeout, my concern is how effective they will be. She isn't use to the concept of timeout form her mother, and doesn't see in in person often enough to become familiar with them from me. Will she understand what a timeout, which she rarely sees, is about, and why it is happening, and/or just think it's something her godfather does sometime?

Should I be trying to better emulate what her mother handles misbehavior, or stick to the sort of timeout routine I would use with other children I mentor, and see more regularly?

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In my experience, so long as you're acting within the boundaries of what the other parent considers acceptable, you should be self-consistent with discipline, but not be too concerned with being explicitly identical to the parent's discipline.

Children are very aware of different standards in different environment, and anyone who's sent a child to school or daycare can see that plainly. The children typically adapt quickly, so long as the new environment is self-consistent.

In the aim to be self consistent, I find that using what I'm comfortable with works best, as it's often difficult to 'parent' in another's style. The self consistency is more important than complete consistency with others' styles.

That's not to say a completely different style will work perfectly. I see challenges with children who come from physical discipline, for example, who then have people like teachers who don't use that; and certainly the other way around might be very confusing for a child. But timeouts aren't at that scale I don't think, and are still well within the scope of what a child will understand. There may be a small learning curve (though it sounds like you already have surpassed that), of course.

What you may want to do, though, is talk to her mother about why she doesn't use time outs. It's possible her approach is more appropriate to her child's particular needs. But that aside, if they work for you and she doesn't object, then go ahead.

  • As a note: I specifically avoid in the answer discussing whether timeouts work in general, or even for a child of this age, as I consider that part of the premise of the question. Don't consider this answer endorsing (or not) that strategy on its own. – Joe Aug 9 at 19:22

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.