How to Use Time Outs Effectively
1. Choose a suitable place with a designated sitting area.
A good time out location should be somewhere you can easily monitor your child to make sure they stay put. It should be boring and away from everyday distractions such as pets, siblings, toys, and TV. Introduce the time out spot to your child when they are not in trouble and explain to them that it is a quiet place they will be sent if they misbehave, disobey certain rules or need to calm down. Choose three to five specific misbehaviors that will lead to a time out and let your children know how long they will have to sit in time out for.
2. Determine an appropriate length of time out.
A good rule of thumb is a minute per year of age. If you find that shorter time outs are not having the desired outcome, increase the length by half the time. For example, a 4-year-old would get an extra 2 minutes for a total of 6 minutes of time out. Some experts recommend using a timer so your child can see time being measured and to stop them from asking when they can come out.
3. Be immediate and consistent.
When your child misbehaves in one of the ways you previously discussed, make sure the time out is implemented immediately following that behavior. Be specific, brief and unemotional when you state the reason such as, “No hitting. Go to time out.” Young kids have short memories so if the consequence isn’t immediate, they are most likely to forget what they did wrong and be confused when they are punished later. Being consistent is equally important and you must follow through every time that misconduct takes place.
4. Keep time outs calm.
Parents who required their children to be calm before the end of time out reported more desired effects. This way kids learn to associate good behaviors at the conclusion of their time outs and it makes it clear to them that yelling and screaming during time out will not be tolerated.
Once the time out is over, turn your attention back on to your child, tuning into what they are doing whether it be playing or completing a task they were asked to do before the time out. When you catch them behaving well, praise them. This will reassure your child that although they were sent to time out, they are capable of doing good and positive things that make you attentive and loving towards them.