Seven Tips for Time Out Success

Time out involves taking your child away from interesting activities and not giving them attention for a short period of time. Whether it’s your first attempt at using this type of discipline, or you have tried it in the past to no effect, these tips will help make time outs successful.

Dedicate a time out area.

In time out, your child should go to a previously arranged time out area. The time out area should be a safe but boring location or room without toys or games, such as a hallway or spare room.

Explain time out to your child.

When you’re both in a calm mood, show your child the time out area and explain what it is. For example, you’ll need to tell your child where they’ll sit quietly to calm down and how long this will last. Answer any questions they have. If you’re unsure whether they have understood, ask them to repeat back what you’ve said.

Focus on one misbehaviour first.

When you first start using time out, it is best to work on changing one misbehaviour at a time, such as hitting or swearing. When the behaviour you’ve chosen is no longer a problem, you could work on another behaviour – for example, throwing toys.

One minute per year of age.

Time outs do not have to be long to be effective. A good rule of thumb is one minute per year of age, up to a maximum of five minutes. For example, three minutes maximum for a three-year-old and five minutes maximum for children aged 5-8 years. Use a timer to keep track of the time – when the alarm rings your child can get up and leave the time out zone.

Use the 1-2-3 counting method.

Using the “1-2-3 Magic” approach involves counting to three before your child goes to time out. This can give your child a chance to change their behaviour before you use time out. For example, when your child misbehaves, you should say, “That’s 1, (name of child)” in a calm but firm manner. If your child acts out again, you say, “That’s 2, (name)”. Again, no more talking or showing emotion. Avoid engaging the child in an argument. If your child acts out again, you say, “That’s 3, take 5”. You might decide that some behaviour, like hitting or biting, should result in an instant time out.

Do not give your child attention while they are in time out.

Do not give your child any attention while they are in time out. Do not look at, talk to, or touch your child. Make sure your child’s siblings do not give them attention in time out.

Praise the next good thing your child does.

Focus on the next positive thing your child does and praise them for it! Set your child up for success by providing opportunities for them to follow directions or perform a positive behaviour that you can praise and reinforce.

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