Disciplining Your Child: Using The Time Out Method Effectively

The Time Out Method of disciplining children is set up to help the child realize the behavior they were doing was not appropriate. There are two schools of though and I subscribe to the one that believes time outs should not be used as a punishment. It is more than a consequence, it allows a child to get control back and change the way they were behaving – which is effective discipline. If a child comes out of time out bent out of shape because of the time out, then it was not used the way it is meant to be used.

To explain time outs to your child, begin with letting them know that everyone needs to take some time out now and again to think about what they are doing and how they could be doing things better. Tell your child that you expect there will be times when you need to help them understand that their behavior is not appropriate and they may need to take a time out to think it through. Give your child a ‘for instance’, like when they yell at their siblings or call them names. Let your child know where you have deemed to be a good place to take a time out. When you asked them to do so, be clear that they are to go to this spot. If you have to take them to this spot, do so. But explain that there is a consequence for you having to take them to time out. Am early bedtime usually works well for our family. Show your child a timer you have for time out purposes. Explain to your child when they go to the time out spot you will set the timer. If when the time is up and they are ready to do what they were asked – or stop doing what they were asked to stop – they may leave the time out area. If they aren’t ready ask them to remain until they feel they are, or set the timer again for another designated time. Make it clear to your child how long that time is. You can even set the timer so that the child can get a real feel for the amount of time they will be given to clam themselves and reflect on their behavior.

Tips for Setting the Amount of Time for ‘Time Outs’

Parents and caregivers set how many minutes for time outs based on age, the severity of the bad behavior, how long they think the child is able to sit, etc. It is my theory that the longer you make it the more it becomes a punishment instead of a teaching tool. If you are using it as a time to reflect on what they were doing and why they shouldn’t, 5 minutes does the trick for school aged children. But if at that point they need more time to calm down, reflect, etc. it can be given. For toddlers and preschool age children, you really need to take into account how long they can sit before the time out becomes the problem. A minute or two should get the point across and help the child get calm. If not, you can ask them to get up only after they have calmed down – so they take an active role in calming themselves.

Tips for Picking the Time Out Spot

The spot chosen for your child’s time outs is very important as it could make or break the method. It should be in a clam area, not too much people traffic, where there are no toys and nothing to look at that could be distracting. It should not be their bed or crib, as that is a place to enjoy relaxing at the end of the day, where your child can de-stress. You don’t want to use it for discipline.

Deciding What Behaviors Will Result in Time Outs

Behaviors that are verbally or physically hurtful, violent acts against another person, angry words, and other lashing out type behaviors are dealt very well using time outs. Saying “We don’t hit, please take a time out to think about how you hurt someone else and how you can avoid hurting other people the next time.” I feel very strongly about giving the perpetrator direction for their thoughts.

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