Timeouts by Age

The most important thing is that all caregivers follow the same timeout procedures in order for the timeout technique to be consistent.

Children’s Age Is a Factor.

Timeouts work very well with children beginning at about age two. However, they are done slightly different for toddlers than for preschoolers, and differently still for school-age children.

Timeout procedures should be followed by all caretakers. That adds consistency to the discipline procedure. There is probably nothing more important than consistency when expecting a discipline technique to work for your child.

Time-out procedures change slightly as children age.

Toddlers

For toddlers, explaining briefly and distracting them to other activities can be your first discipline approach.

However, temper tantrums and angry crying to get one’s way can be timed out in a crib, bed or gated room. Continued time-out (one minute per age of child) after the child has quieted down is usually enough to teach the child that her/his unacceptable behaviors will not be accepted.

Sometimes toddlers fall asleep when they’ve been timed out. Let them nap. Their unacceptable behavior may have been caused by exhaustion.

Pre-School Children

Start with a time-out warning. If the disruptive behavior does not stop, ask the child to go to his/her timeout spot (and we will assume that is the child’s room) unescorted. Pre-school children who are reasonably compliant may or may not willingly go to their room when sent. After they have calmed down (quit crying, screaming, or storming around the room), start their timeout: one minute for each year of child’s age.

If they slam the door behind themselves, don’t respond, and they will usually stop slamming on their own.

The less compliant child should be escorted to his/her room without the parent/caretaker’s loss of temper.

School-Aged Children

School-aged children who are reasonably compliant may willingly go to their room when sent. Five to 10 minutes of quiet time are usually enough to settle them down. After they have settled down, start their one minute timeout.

Other children who are not so compliant must be escorted to their room. Again, no loss of temper here.

Also, if they slam the door, don’t respond. Eventually most children will stop slamming. However, if you angrily remind them not to slam the door, they will probably continue to slam as long as you are reminding them.

Summary

Time-out procedures change slightly as children age. The most important thing is that all caregivers follow the same timeout procedures in order for the time-out technique to be consistent.

Jan Wilson

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