I have a spirited almost 3 yo DS (gee only 3 months until he's 3
where does the time go...anyway)
We use time outs often. They seem to work well. We started when he was about 2.
Depending on the situation, we handle time outs differently. Generally they are two mins, but if I spend the entire time making him sit down he gets and extra min here or there....
If we are home and he is just emotionally out of control, I will pick him up and say "I think you need a break...you should sit and calm down for a little bit" Usually he sits on the couch or where ever is close.
He generally always get a "no it is not very nice when you do ____ please don't do that again" then he gets re directed - if he countinues to do _____ then he gets a time out warning and I count to 5 for him to stop the bad behavior - then he gets a time out
If we are at a friends house, (we stay with my sister a lot on the weekends) I find it harder to get his attention when there are people around or things going on, so I generally take him to a different room away from everything and stay with him for the two minutes.
If we are in public like the mall and he is walking, he then has to be carried, or put in the stroller or cart until he calms down. I have even had to take him outside for some air, when he won't calm down while being held and flails around kicking and screaming and pulling hair
If its a certain object he can't behave while using - the object then gets a time out instead.
When ever time outs are over, I normally sit down with DS and try to explain why it was wrong, to do certain things, and what is a better way to express intense emotion like anger with out hitting, or boredom with out throwing his food ect....
I am not sure how well this is working, I am often at my wits end with DS behavior - he is very high needs and head strong - and rambunctious - we do have to use time outs often - but I like to believe its working.....and over time things will get better.
Whew...this is long....sorry......I can't ever keep things short and sweet not IRL either!!