Timeout Tips for Disciplining Your Child

Three steps for timeouts include choosing no more than three behaviors for timeouts, always using timeout penalties when these behaviors occur, and enforcing timeout immediately.

Rule of Three

  1. Choose no more than three negative behaviors to punish by time-outs.
  2. Consistently use this penalty every time these behaviors happen.
  3. Don’t delay timeouts.

If for some reason you can not enforce timeout immediately–you are in line at the post office holding six packages and a baby–don’t bring it up. If a long period of time elapses, it doesn’t work.

It is very important that your child understand which behaviors will result in a time-out penalty. Nor more than three behaviors at any time period can be penalized by timeouts.

It won’t take your child long to realize that he/she can get away with negative behavior in certain situations.


  • Your child needs to know in advance what timeout is and how it works. Explain the timeout and reiterate that is will be used every time he/she behaves in a certain way.
  • Tell her where and how long she will stay in timeout.

If every negative behavior is punished by timeout, you child may spend his entire day there. In fact, if you are just beginning to use timeout with an older or out-of-control child, he/she may spend the first day or two in timeout locations anyway. By the third day, it will be less.

More Tips:

  • Be prepared to firmly hold an escaping child in place.
  • Be consistent and persistent.
  • Don’t show your anger.
  • Pretend you can’t hear any of the things your child says about you during the time-out.

She/he will eventually learn the only way to get out of time-out is to remain there until the penalty time is up.

Always cheerfully welcome your child back when the time-out is over. Don’t lecture, don’t even bring it up. A hug is the most acceptable behavior for you now.

Jan Wilson

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