Guiding children toward better behavior using timeout is a technique that is backed by science. However, how do you know you’re doing it right? Here are four things to consider to help implement timeout effectively.
The time a child spends in timeout should not be shrouded in negative talk such as, “go to your room and think about what you did.” Your child is likely not going to spend time in timeout to do this. It can be frustrating when your child acts out; however, this time should never be something that is used as a punishment from an angry parent or caregiver. This technique is about behavior modification and redirecting children to make better choices about their behavior. When your child acts out and you want to send them to timeout, firmly state that they are going to timeout, the reason why and then direct your child to their timeout spot. “You didn’t follow directions. Now you are in timeout for two minutes.”
Set a time and follow through
Sending your child to timeout for extended periods of time can be cruel and not effective. It is best to immediately lead your child to their timeout spot after you’ve announced the timeout for consistency and as an immediate response to them misbehaving that they cannot avoid. Once there, set a two minute (or brief) timer for yourself while the child sits in the timeout spot. This allows for a brief time for your child to remain calm before letting them leave timeout.
Timeout should be different from your child’s normal environment. Do not allow toys, games, electronics, family members or pets into the timeout space. Anything used as a distraction or for fun can defeat the purpose of their time in timeout.
Have a talk
Once timeout is over, let your child know time out is over and why they were in time out. You want this to be as short and sweet as possible. Children will begin to make the connection between their misbehavior and their experience of time out, and that will help motivate them to stop doing the thing that got them in time out. Once your kiddo is out of time out and engaged in positive behavior, then be sure to catch them being good. Time in is even more important than time out!
Timeouts can be an effective technique used to show children the consequences of their behavior. These simple tips can support parents in a structured way, while providing reassurance. If you are interested in more of our tips in other areas of parenting our virtual Parenting U videos can help. Click here to learn more.
Learn more with Parenting U
Your child’s pediatrician is a great resource for questions on timeout techniques. Children’s Hospital & Medical Center offers a 100 percent virtual Parenting U video series covering popular topics, such as Effective Timeout Techniques, Mastering Potty Training and Preparing for Your Newborn. Register here to learn expert advice and tips.