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Using Time Out

by Teresa, The CuteKid™ Staff

Child time-out can be a great discipline tool, but only if it is used consistently and appropriately. It is really only effective for children at least two years of age and younger than eight. Children over the age of eight respond better to losing privileges and receiving rewards.

Establish a place. Establish a spot in the home and give it a name like the “time-out” spot. It can be a specific chair or a corner. Always use the same spot when your child misbehaves.

Give a warning. When your child misbehaves give them a warning. Get down on their level and in a firm voice let them know that if the behavior continues that they will have to go to the time-out spot. Not every behavior justifies a time-out so only give a warning when the behavior justifies it and you are willing to enforce a time-out.

Follow through. If the behavior is repeated then take them to the time-out spot. Children will often throw a fit and cry at being forced to leave an activity and go to time-out, but that is okay.

Set a time limit. Set a timer for the same number of minutes as your child is years old. A two-year-old should be in time-out for two minutes, a four-year-old four minutes, and so on. If your child leaves the time-out spot before the timer goes off calmly place them back in time-out. My youngest has a very hard time staying in time-out. I often have to put her back in three or four times in the three minutes she is in the corner. When you place them back in time-out do it without yelling or threatening further punishment. Eventually they will learn that they have to stay in time-out when placed there. (Although my daughter still hasn’t learned that lesson completely.)

Explain why. Once the time is up then get down and explain exactly why they were put in time-out. Talk about their behavior and what you would like them to do differently. You might say something like, “You had to go to time-out because you hit your sister. That hurt her. I want you to play nice and share.”

Apologize. I always make my child apologize. For older children it may be harder to get them to apologize so instead you can say when you are sorry I expect to hear an apology. For repeated behaviors you might want to try writing a parent-child contract.

Reinforce your love Then I give my child a hug and a kiss and send them off to play. It is important to remind your child that even though you did not like their behavior that you still love them. So often children associate discipline with rejection and as a parent that is not what you want through the technique of child time-out.