My 16 month old has always been very willful and it is hard to get her to drink a lot of milk that is not from breastfeeding. I have read that "time out"'s are timed 1 minute per year of age, rounding down so hers is a one minute time out.

Is it okay to offer that if she finishes her milk (or any food for that matter), she can get out of "time out"? Or should food not be associated with "time out" at all so there is no negative association?

*I realize that a minute may not be long enough to finish food and she may just figure out to wait it out.

  • Why do you feel it is important that she "finishes her milk/food"? Is she malnourished? Is there some medical reason? Normally children know quite well how much they need. I have always heard this expressed as "a healthy child has never starved in front of a full plate".
    – sleske
    Aug 19, 2016 at 23:51

3 Answers 3


My first question is: why are you trying to get her to drink milk if she doesn't want to? Many mental issues with food arise when parents force their children to eat certain foods at the expense of others. As discussed in this abstract (Benton, 2004):

Children are more likely to eat in emotionally positive atmospheres. [...] Restricting access to particular foods increases rather than decreases preference. Forcing a child to eat a food will decrease the liking for that food.

Sounds like, if you are particularly concerned that she should drink milk, just act like it's a treat rather than a burden that she has to do, and that it's a treat you like to have as well. On the other hand, forcing her to drink milk may lead to her develop a real life-long aversion (Batsell et al, 2002):

Specifically, the most common type of forced consumption (76%) involved an authority figure (e.g. parent, teacher) forcingachild to consume a novel, disliked, or aversive food. In this authority figure scenario, respondents recalled the episode as involving interpersonal conflict and negative affect, and identified the most aversive aspects of this scenario as lack of control and feelings of helplessness. Furthermore, most respondents (72%) reported that they would not willingly eat the target food today.

So, making food part of any kind of disciplinary activity could backfire on you badly, unless that food is considered a reward. There's some suggestion that this is the origin of the 'sugar high' (Hoover and Milich, 1994):

In the experimental group, mothers were told their children had received a large dose of sugar, whereas in the control condition mothers were told their sons received a placebo; all children actually received the placebo (aspartame). Mothers in the sugar expectancy condition rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. Behavioral observations revealed these mothers exercised more control by maintaining physical closeness, as well as showing trends to criticize, look at, and talk to their sons more than did control mothers. For several variables, the expectancy effect was stronger for cognitively rigid mothers.

In essence, getting something 'forbidden' was so bad for the mothers that they became more controlling, while the kids themselves thought that it was awesome to get something they couldn't.

tl;dr: If milk suddenly becomes 'forbidden', then maybe she will start to think that it's awesome.

  • I'm trying to wean from breastfeeding.
    – Rhea
    Aug 24, 2012 at 1:26
  • 4
    @Rhea-- So, that's really a different question ("How can I wean a 16 month old?"), but in general, I think my answer still stands. Make it seem like they can't have whatever it is you want them to have, and they will try to get it. Reverse psychology; works for us, and it worked for us when we were weaning as well. Another trick is to say that breast milk is for babies, and she's not a baby.
    – mmr
    Aug 24, 2012 at 3:50
  • I'm not asking how to wean from breastfeeding. I'm asking this question. Thanks for your answer.
    – Rhea
    Aug 25, 2012 at 2:35
  • I tried reverse psychology and it didn't work. I think she is too young and is still at the "want to please" stage and not at the "oppositionalism of toddlerhood" phase yet.
    – Rhea
    Aug 25, 2012 at 13:05

Whether or not punishing for milk is a separate issue, I think this is more about making her realize she will serve the time for anything she does, even if she decides to do it. I feel that if you let her get out of jail early to do what she was supposed to do in the first place will make it harder for you later. She will refuse to do anything until you punish her then she will do it to dodge that punishment. I have a fairly consistent punishment for certain actions, and those punishments are not negotiable. Once they earned the sentence, it must be carried out. Be consistent with the punishment and she will learn that you will carry out the terms regardless of her pleas, this will let her know that she needs to do the task BEFORE it gets to that point.

Do not wait until you are angry, give her a certain amount of time and let her know she has that time to get started on the task (I use 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 1 minute etc. depending on how long it would reasonably take to get started) then once that time is up, they get to serve their sentence, ALWAYS.

If you let her get out of time out early, she will wait until she is in timeout to do it, just to test you, sometimes you will give in and she will never serve time or do the task. I never wanted to be like the parents who sit there in the store and say "1... 2... 2 and a half... 2 and three quarters, 2 and 7/8th... come one please??!?!" My punishments are very minor, a slap on the wrist, even now that my son is 12 and girl is 7, but it is consistent and I hardly ever have to threaten them, usually the countdown is enough.


Time-outs are a disciplinary mechanism. Why are you disciplining your child because they won't do what you want?

I suggest trying different approaches:

If you're trying to introduce food, how about some interesting foods like grapes, apples, bananas, rice-cakes, cooked carrots?

If the issue is that you're trying to reduce breast feeding, can you express instead?

If they won't finish their milk after already having eaten, how about offering cool water first and milk in half an hour? A 'sippy-cup' is safe for them to drink it bit-by-bit later.

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