Time Outs and Ins

timeoutChildren between the ages of three and five are learning to develop self- control. Developmentally they are capable of understanding basic rules like “No hitting or biting”.

In addition they should be developing a respect for property and can understand “You can not draw on the walls.” even if the impulse strikes them. But it’s important to remember that this takes time and that they are “learning.” When rules are broken time out provides a method of letting your child know that this behavior is unacceptable.

“Time-out” is the most effective method of discipline for young children. It has been researched extensively and is used by hundreds of day care centers and nursery schools. It is simple to carry out and allows both parent and child to cool off.

How to properly use Time-Out

  • Establish a time-out space in one particular room—the room where you spend the most time together is best. Use a chair, a step, or a playpen without toys. You can also create a time-out space wherever or whenever it is necessary. However, never put a toddler in a closed room, bathroom, or closet.
  • The recommended length of “time-out” is one minute for each year of age. A timer can be very helpful.
  • Establish what behaviors will result in time-out ahead of time. Have a “parent” meeting to decide what behaviors you wish to change. Never try to change more than two at a time.
  • Be consistent. That means each parent and childcare provider is consistent.
  • Remember the rule of using five words or less to tell your child what behavior you are putting them in time out for. Following the inappropriate behavior, say for example, “No hitting!” firmly and, without raising your voice and without further discussion, place the child in time-out.
  • If your child will not sit in the chair, hold him in it from behind the chair putting gentle pressure on the shoulders. For an older child, resetting the timer teaches him to sit until told to get up. The key to success is to not say a word or look at the child during this time.
  • Following a time-out, they can resume play. Do not bring up the incident again. Do not lecture and do not reprimand. Doing so has been shown to act as a positive reinforcement for the unwanted behavior by giving the child attention and could negate your disciplinary efforts.
  • Equally unhelpful is any attempt to assuage your “guilt” by giving extra hugs and kisses to show your child that you still love him. Love is demonstrated in many ways and helping your child learn to control his behavior is one of them.
  • The one exception to bringing up the subject is if they have injured someone or damaged someone’s property. You should ask them to apologize. A simple “I’m sorry ” will do. It’s never too early to teach them that art. But don’t expect miracles right away. If they refuse to apologize, don’t insist or make a fuss. Your facial expression will be enough to convey that you are disappointed. But over time, apologies will come, especially if your child has observed your behavior and heard you apologize.
  • The child should start with a clean slate after each time-out and should receive praise for the next positive behavior.

Time-out works best in a loving environment where the child has received adequate positive attention.