Using Timeouts to Discipline Your Child

Using the timeout system to discipline your child lets the child regain control without feeling guilty. Timeouts conserve self-esteem while helping parents control their own tempers.

Timeouts effectively stop behaviors that are especially hard to discipline. In short, timeouts will help everyone: the child, the parents, the grandparents, the caregivers, the teachers.

What is the Timeout System?

Timeout is a way to change a child’s unwanted behavior by separation him or her from an environment where the behavior occurred. The goal is to remove the child from the “fun” environment in order to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

Timeouts are most effective when other positive parenting methods are used as well, such as reinforcement for good behavior.

Timeout Errors

What if you have tried the time-out system with your kids, but still feel like it just doesn’t work? It could be that you are making the following errors when implementing the timeout system:

  • You’re using the timeouts too often. They will eventually lose their effectiveness.
  • You’re giving your kids attention during the timeout. By doing this, you are basically reinforcing the behavior that put them in timeout in the first place.
  • You’re using them for the wrong reason. Timeouts are not a “think about what you did” punishment. They are an opportunity to stop a behavior before it escalates and allow your child a chance to try again.

Timeout Procedures

In order for timeout to be the most effective as a penalty for negative behavior, it is important that you follow certain procedures.

  1. Give a time-out warning. Use a calm voice and warn your child that he or she will go to timeout if they continue misbehaving. Give them about 5 seconds to see if they comply. If the unwanted behavior continues, follow through with the timeout.
  2. Explain to them why they are in a timeout. Tell your child, “You have to go to timeout because you…” and only tell them once. Use a calm but firm voice. Avoid lecturing, scolding or arguing.
  3. Place your child in the timeout. Lead him or her by the hand or pick them up safely and carry them to the timeout spot. Do not let anyone talk or play with them and explain that he or she is to remain in timeout until stated otherwise.
  4. End the timeout. A good guideline for timeout length is to give 1 minute for every year of the child’s age. However, you want to make sure the timeout ends relatively calmly, so it may take longer. Once timeout has ended, remind your child why he or she was placed there.
  5. Praise the next good thing your child does. Remember to focus on the positive things your child does as well. Pairing positive reinforcement for desired behaviors is what makes giving timeouts for unwanted behaviors effective.

Timeout Activities for Active/Aggressive Child

If your child is older and is very active or is very aggressive, requiring this child to sit alone may set-off even more angry, aggressive, or destructive actions. This child may need an alternative form of discipline:

  • Loss of privileges. Losing a preferred item or activity, such as electronics or visits to a friends house, can be an effective alternative to a timeout.
  • Natural consequences. If your child’s aggression causes him or her to damage or destroy their own property, then the consequence implement themselves.
  • Reward system. You may want to focus on increasing their positive behaviors instead of decreasing their negative ones. Set up a reward system for good behavior.

Timeout Discipline

Time-outs can effectively stop behaviors that are especially hard to discipline. It can also serve as disciplinary action for a particularly aggressive or impulsive kid! The discipline problems timeout can solve include everything from a temper tantrum to cursing to name-calling to spitting to horsing around to biting.

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