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Posts for tag: Time Out

June 10, 2018
Category: Behavior
Tags: Time Out   Guide   Bad Behavior  


A Parent's Guide to Using Time-Out

Am Fam Physician. 2018 May 15;97(10):online.

Time-out is an effective way for parents to stop bad behaviors in their child. For time-out to work, you must do it the same way every time. Also, make sure to reward good behavior often when the child is not in time-out. For example, give a pat on the shoulder or a hug, give your child praise, or start a sticker chart.

Preparing for the Use of Time-Out

  • Put a timer where the child can see it. Although a smartphone timer is fine, an inexpensive, portable kitchen timer also works well.

  • Pick a good spot for time-out. During time-out, the child should not be able to hear the radio or other music, hear or see the television, or be able to look out a window. The time-out spot shouldn't be the child's bedroom or someplace a lot of people will be walking through. It shouldn't be uncomfortable or confining (like a closet). There should be nothing dangerous or poisonous nearby.

  • Only use time-out for the most problematic behaviors, like hitting a brother or sister or not following important directions.

  • You should be very clear with your child about which behaviors will result in time-out and how time-out works. It may help to walk your child through the process of time-out and let your child know what happens if he or she does not stay in time-out. Only use time-out for the behaviors you have decided on ahead of time and have talked about with your child.

Using Time-Out

  • Once a behavior that you've decided will result in time-out occurs, quickly explain in a matter-of-fact way that the child must go to time-out and why. Stay calm and walk or carry the child to time-out. Don't speak to the child or make eye contact.

  • Set the timer for one minute for each year of the child's age up to five minutes.

  • If the child screams or gets up before the time is up, place the child back in time-out without talking to or looking at the child, and reset the time. The child must be quiet for the entire time before leaving time-out. Make sure to stay busy and out of view of your child during time-out. Remind brothers and sisters and others that they should not interact with the child who is in time-out.

  • Once the time-out is over, the child should have a clean slate. Don't dwell on the problem behavior or let it influence how you treat the child after the time-out. If necessary, ask the child to apologize (for example, to the person he or she hit) or to clean up a mess caused by the problem behavior.

  • Make sure that time-in is pleasant. Look often for chances to praise or reward your child for good behavior.

Tips if Time-Out Isn't Working

  • Make sure you are using time-out the same way every time

  • Make sure the child isn't being warned multiple times before time-out is started

  • When a child is in time-out:

    - Don't look at the child

    - Don't talk to the child

    - Don't talk about the child

    - Remain calm and do not show anger

    - Monitor from close by, but not in the same room

    - Be consistent and don't give up

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. 

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

March 01, 2018
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: discipline   behavior   Time Out   Punishment   Mistakes  

Common Time-Out Mistakes and How to Solve Them

Could this classic discipline technique actually make the situation worse? Learn what experts recommend, including a new and improved five-step technique for giving time-outs.


Time-out certainly sounds like a brilliant fix: A child spends a few minutes sitting alone, and emerges calm and cooperative. Parents often admit that it simply doesn’t work—because their kid fights going to the time-out, cries and calls out instead of sitting quietly, or gets even more worked up afterward. However, according to a recent study from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, 85 percent of parents who use the strategy make mistakes that can reduce its success, such as giving too many warnings or talking to their kids or letting them play with toys during time-outs. If you’re ready to become a time-out dropout, consider when they will be most effective and how you can adopt other tactics to quell your kid’s antics.

Where did time-out come from?

Time-outs became popularized by reality shows like Supernanny, but the technique was first developed in the 1960s as a more humane alternative to harsh punishments that were common then. Before Arthur Staats, Ph.D., now retired from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, came up with the concept, teachers and principals routinely smacked children with rulers, and parents spanked or whipped their kids with switches. Now—at a time when a video of a kid being paddled at school goes viral because it’s so shocking—most parents are embracing a more gentle approach. After all, decades of research have shown that children who have been routinely spanked are more likely to be aggressive when they get older, as well as to suffer from anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. 

But a time-out isn’t benign either. “When your child has a tantrum or a meltdown, she may be overwhelmed and unable to control her emotions,” says Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and author of No-Drama Discipline. Rather than immediately sending her to a chair in the corner, it’s important to let her know that you empathize with how she’s feeling. Says Dr. Siegel, “Your child actually needs you the most when she’s at her worst.” Most experts believe time-outs can be effective, as long as they are used correctly and in the right situations, especially for kids who are over age 3. “They should be reserved for particular offenses that could cause injury to your child or someone else,” says Parents advisor Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician and author of Toddler 411

Time-Out Mistakes

1. Using Them Too Often

Despite popular belief, time-outs aren’t supposed to be about getting children to think through their misdeeds. “A time-out is primarily a ‘Let’s stop things from getting worse’ strategy,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a Parents advisor and author of Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. Dr. Kennedy-Moore explains, “In the history of the universe, no children have ever gone to their rooms to ‘Think about what you did!’ They’re thinking about their parents’ meanness. The learning starts after the time-out, when you can say, ‘Okay, let’s try again.’ ” 

2. Giving Kids Attention During Time-Out

A time-out is essentially a mild consequence. Young kids crave attention, and even negative attention may suffice, explains Dr. Kennedy-Moore. In fact, “time-out” was originally short for “time-out from positive reinforcement,” because Dr. Staats felt that paying attention to a child’s misbehavior can encourage him to misbehave more. “To me, time-out isn’t a naughty chair or a corner of the room,” says Dr. Brown. “It’s simply the lack of parental attention for a short period of time that lets a child see that his behavior led to losing attention instead of getting it.”

3. Using Them for the Wrong Reason

Research from Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, has found that time-outs work best on young children who are oppositional and defiant by hitting or intentionally doing the opposite of what you ask, but only if you first try milder responses most of the time. When a child is put in a time-out for different types of problems or if it’s used too often for oppositional defiance, his behavior may get worse, says study coauthor Robert E. Larzelere, Ph.D., professor of family science. Little kids who are just whining about the mashed potatoes or negotiating for more iPad time respond better to other approaches. In those types of situations, consider these tactics instead:

Alternatives to Time-Out

  • Identify and reinforce positive opposite behaviors, such as playing gently and speaking kindly, suggests Mandi Silverman, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, in New York City. Praise or offer rewards for these behaviors, saying, “Wow, you are playing so nicely with your toys” or giving your child stars or stickers.
  • Use when-then statements. Instead of telling your child, “We can stay at the playground for five more minutes, but only if you put your shoes back on,” you can motivate her to cooperate by saying, “When you put your shoes back on, then we can stay at the playground for five more minutes.” 
  • Strike when the iron is cold. After everyone has had a chance to cool down, you can explain, “We don’t throw toys because throwing toys is dangerous.” 

The New and Improved Time-Out Technique

If you ask parents how they use time-outs, you’ll probably hear a wide variety of answers, ranging from having a naughty chair to keeping kids in their room. Since Dr. Staats first wrote about time-outs, researchers have changed them for the better, so they’re both gentler and more effective. 

  • Step 1: Give one clear warning. The best study found that a single non-repetitive warning before every time-out can reduce the number of time-outs needed by 74 percent, says Dr. Larzelere. If your child doesn’t start cooperating within five seconds, proceed with the time-out.
  • Step 2: Announce a time-out. You might wait until your child is relatively calm, but briefly reiterate what he did wrong (“No hitting. Time-out.”), and escort him to a naughty chair. (Many experts advise against sending your child to his room, because he’ll have toys, books, and other fun things there.) Resist the urge to lecture him. It’s okay to offer an explanation before the time-out or after it, but not during it. If you say things like, “I’ve told you about this a thousand times,” “Now you are paying the price,” or “I hope you are thinking about what you did,” you are giving your child attention rather than removing it—and any attention, even negative attention, can act as a reward rather than a consequence. 
  • Step 3: Start the clock. Dr. Staats originally suggested keeping kids in a time-out until they stopped fussing, even if that took a half hour. Today, many parents use the “one minute for every year of a child’s age” rule. However, recent research done by Timothy Vollmer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, shows that even brief time-outs of one to three minutes are effective, at least for children ages 3 to 5. Setting the clock for longer may make it harder to get your child to sit in a time-out in the future.
  • Step 4: Make it boring. During the time-out, do not talk to your child or make eye contact. Staying silent may require some practice, especially if your child says things like, “You are the worst mom in the world!” or asks questions like, “Why are you doing this to me?” and “Can I have a glass of water?” No matter what your child says or asks during the time-out, ignore it. 
  • Step 5: When the timer goes off, call an end to the time-out. It doesn’t matter if your child is still fidgety, sassy, or crying. Once the timer goes off, the time-out is over, Dr. Vollmer says. How will you know if time-outs are working? If you start following these steps, within one to three weeks you should need to employ them less and less often. Says Dr. Larzelere, “When you call for a time-out and mean what you say, children will learn to listen.”

What If My Child Refuses to Go to Time-Out?

  1. Present a choice. He can cooperate or lose a privilege, such as screen time. If he chooses not to have a time-out, say, “Okay, then it’s no TV,” and walk away. 
  2. Offer time off for good behavior. You might say, “Time-out is normally three minutes, but if you go now and sit quietly, it will be two.” 
  3. Take it yourself. If your child is safe being unsupervised (or another adult is there), go to your own room. Or say, “I will not talk to you for three minutes because you hit your brother.”