My four year old daughter was recently put in time-out at day camp for 20 minutes. How long is too long and what is the correct way of doing this?
You are right to be concerned! Twenty minutes is a long time to be in time-out for a 4 year old. Generally, the length of time-out in minutes should be equal to the age of the child in years. So, your 4 year old should spend about 4 minutes in time-out. The minute to age ratio works well at home, school, daycare, camps, and anywhere else your child needs a time-out.
That being said, sometimes if a child is still fussing at the end of time-out, they may be kept in time-out until they calm down. If the child never calms down though, this practice could lead to an extremely long and stressful time-out.
Now that you’ve had this experience, it’s important for you to talk with your child’s counselor and the director of the day camp to share your concerns. Many schools and daycares use time-out for discipline, but it’s important to make sure that there is a protocol for how to handle children who are still acting up at the end of the time-out period. Some ideas for that include:
- Allow the child to sit in time out a second time (that would be a maximum of 8 minutes for your child if they sat in time-out twice in a row)
- Take the child to the principal’s or director’s office
- Give them a different consequence, like 5 minutes of sitting on the bench at the start of recess
- Call the parent
As a parent you have every right to know and understand the discipline policy at your child’s school, daycare, or camp. Often these policies are reviewed early on in the school year or camp session, but don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions or lingering concerns. Your child’s caregiver should be more than happy to discuss this important issue with you. For more tips on time-out at home visit my post How To Make Time-Out Work For You. Best of luck!