In my opinion, time-out has gotten a bad rap. Parents of this generation are often told to use it as a discipline method with their children, but rarely do they get instructions on how to do it correctly. What happens is that they give time-out a try, it doesn’t work, and so they give up on it as a method for discipline. But with a few basic instructions for parents, time-out can work and can be a great tool for disciplining your children! Try these ten tips to help make time-out work for you:
1. Pick a good spot for time-out before you actually have to use it! I prefer a hallway or a chair in the dining room, but really it depends on how your home is set up. Try to make your spot be one that you can keep an eye on while they’re there, but not one that gets them into any more trouble. Also, be sure they aren’t able to get any attention in their spot or get into anything fun! Going to time-out should be a punishment not a good time!
2. The length of time-out in minutes should be equal to your child’s age in years. If they’re three, then they should be able to sit in time-out for three minutes.
3. Before taking your child to time-out, tell them why they are going. For example, “Since you threw your book across the room, you are going to have to sit in time-out.” Or, “Because you didn’t pick up your toys when I asked, you are going to have to sit in time-out.”
4. On your way to the time-out spot, don’t say or do anything else. Ignore their attempts to apologize, whine, or cry their way out of it. Just walk them there.
5. Once you get to the time-out spot, tell them to sit down. Once they are quietly in their spot, start keeping time. Some people use a timer in the kitchen, just figure out what works best for you.
6. Don’t talk to your child while they’re in time-out. If they scream and cry, just ignore them! Come on, you’re the parent, you can do it! I’ll admit though that this is the hardest part for me.
7. When the timer goes off, then go to your child and tell them that they need to follow your original direction. For example, “Now, go pick up your toys” or “Now, pick up the book you threw and put it on the bookshelf.”
8. If they don’t follow the directions again, then you just start over and put them in time out again. The sequence continues until they follow the original instruction. So, you might have to put them in time-out a few times, but eventually they’ll comply if you stick with the plan! Once they do, feel free to offer them some praise. Nothing over the top, a simple “Nice job picking up your toys” will do.
9. It’s also important for the adult who put them in time-out to be the one that follows through with the entire sequence. If Mom starts the time-out, then Mom should finish it. Same for Dad. Your kids need to know that if you start a punishment that you are capable of following through with it.
10. And finally, time-out really works best when you’re able to do it right when the misbehavior occurs. Yes, that means you may be at the park and have to put them in time-out on a bench or at a friend’s house and have to set up a time-out spot in their hallway. But putting a child in time-out hours after an infraction usually doesn’t help in the long run.