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How To Put Your Child In “Time-Out”

Time-outs can be an effective method of discipline for kids ages 3 to 9. Getting the best results will require some work in the beginning, but things will get easier as time goes on.

This type of discipline, which involves isolating the youngster for a short period of time so he can think over his behavior, can help the mother or father feel less guilty for disciplining the youngster.

Tips for making time-outs an effective disciplinary method:

1. A time-out allows both the parent and the youngster to have a few minutes on their own before talking through the issue.

2. A time-out provides kids with an understanding that they are responsible for their own actions, and that there are consequences to negative behavior.

3. A time-out provides the tools necessary for parent and child to have a conversation about why the behavior is inappropriate and what can be done differently next time.

4. Choose a designated area or chair in a boring place. Make sure there is no television or other distractions close by. If you live in a small place, face the chair to a wall. Remember to discipline the youngster and not reward him by sitting him on a couch in front of a TV.

5. Decide which kinds of misbehaviors you will use the time-outs for. Common misbehaviors that require time-outs include:
  • back talk
  • biting
  • grabbing
  • hitting
  • kicking
  • name-calling
  • pushing
  • screaming
  • shoving
  • spitting
  • temper tantrums
  • yelling

Waking up in a bad mood or forgetting a chore wouldn't need to be disciplined by a time-out because these are not aggressive behaviors. Explain to the youngster ahead of time what a time-out is and how it will be used.

6. Discuss with the youngster the reason for the time-out when time is up.

7. For a time-out to be effective, your youngster has to understand the rules AND be able to connect inappropriate behavior with temporary loss of privileges. So, make sure your youngster understands the concept of consequences.

8. The time-out should be appropriate for the age and development of your youngster. If everyone is playing in the living room, and a 3-year-old needs a time-out, he doesn't have to be banished all the way to his room. It will make enough of an impact on him that he has to stop playing and sit quietly on the couch or in a time-out chair. For a school-age child, it may be more appropriate for him to go to his room (and may actually be less embarrassing for him).

9. Use a time-out immediately after the bad behavior. Don't carry on a conversation on the way.

10. Use age-appropriate time-outs. The general rule is one minute for each year of age. So a 3-year-old would sit for 3 minutes, while a 4-year-old would sit for 4 minutes, and so on. Even if it's difficult to make a youngster sit in a time-out for that amount of time, be firm and persistent. The best thing about this form of discipline is that as time goes on, it gets easier and easier to enforce. Persistence and not giving in are the keys. If it helps, a portable kitchen timer can be used to count down the minutes.

11. When used calmly and consistently, a time-out is an incredible helpful way to raise responsible and communicative kids.

12. The most important part of a time-out is when the time-out is over, but before the youngster has returned to his activity. This is where you have the opportunity to talk to him. The following points are the most crucial to make sure that the youngster understands why he was in a time-out, and what he can do to avoid one in the future. The conversation should be brief and age-appropriate. If you're dealing with a young child, you're going to do most of the talking, but with an older child, it can be more of a dialogue. Once the youngster has served his time, he has "paid his debt to society" and the incident should be considered over and done with.
  1. Review the situation (e.g., "You had a time-out because you were mad and hit your sister")
  2. Restate the rule and give an alternate behavior (e.g., "We don't hit when we're mad – we can use our words")
  3. Let the child resume his activity (e.g., "You did a good job in your time-out, so now you can say sorry to your sister and go play)" 

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents with Defiant Children

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