If utilized correctly, time outs – removing a child from the environment where misbehavior has taken place to a neutral space – can be an effective method of disciplining children. But unfortunately, many parents make mistakes that can reduce their success.
The purpose of time outs is not to punish your child but rather give them a moment to regain self-control and re-enter the situation better able to cope. In addition, time outs should not be imposed in anger and make your child feel ashamed, ridiculed or afraid. When a time out is given, avoid yelling, spanking and criticizing. Simply state the inappropriate behavior in a calm yet firm manner and direct them to the time out location.
Because young kids crave attention, even negative attention will suffice. Because your child actually needs you the most when they are at their worst, time outs demonstrate to them that their behavior led to the loss of parental attention for a short period of time. Be sure time outs are boring and no matter what your child says or asks, ignore it.
Once you have explained that certain behaviors will lead to time outs, it is important to follow through with it every time. If you don’t, your child will think you are full of false threats and think they can cry or plead their way out of time outs. If your child refuses to stay put, hold them firmly in place for the duration of the time out or take them back to the time out location spot every time and restart the timer.
When the timer goes off, the time out is over no matter if your child is still angry or crying. It is important to talk with your child, asking if they understood why a time out was given and allow them to express their feelings while reassuring them with a hug. Praise them for completing the time out and then move on.
As a parent, we want to provide our children with unconditional love and support but also show them that when they misbehave, there will be consequences for their actions.