What is a time-out?
It’s when your child is given a set amount of time to be alone and think about what they did wrong. This can be a consequence for acting out or misbehaving, but it can also be used as a way to teach your child that there are consequences for misbehavior.
For example, if your child wants to put something on the floor that he shouldn’t put on the floor, and he does it anyway, he may get a time-out. He has just committed an act of defiance, and he needs to learn that there are consequences for defiance.
When you use a time-out as a consequence for disobedience, keep in mind that it should be short. Short enough so that your child understands that they did something wrong and needs to think about why they did it (because otherwise they will continue doing it again).
How long should you give them?
You’ll have to find out how long your child can tolerate being alone. If you give them too long, they’ll just feel that they’re being punished and won’t understand why they’re being punished. If you give them too short, they’ll continue to act out.
How should you give them?
You have a few options here:
1) Time-out in a separate room
This is the most common way to use time-outs, and the one I recommend. It gives your child time to think about what they did wrong and why it was wrong.
You may want to use something like this picture. This allows your child to see that you’re serious about their behavior, but it also keeps them from doing anything else while they are thinking about what they did wrong.
They can’t do anything until the time-out is over, so if there’s something else they want to do while they’re thinking about what happened, then that will have to wait until the time-out is over.
2) Time-out in your room with you present
This method is great for when you want to get a quick response from your child or when you want your child’s attention (it’s hard for a kid who has been defiant to pay attention to you if you’re not there).
You can give them a time-out in your room with you present. I have a time-out chair that I put in my room so that I can give my kids a time-out in my room.
This allows me to stay with them while they think about what they did wrong and why it was wrong. This method is also great for when you want to help your child learn something, like how to take turns or how to say “I’m sorry”.
You should never use a time-out as punishment for misbehavior that isn’t disobedience. That’s not what it’s for!
The purpose of using a time-out as punishment is only if they are defiant or to punish inappropriate behavior (e.g. talking back, using bad language, making inappropriate comments, hitting).
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