6 tips for a successful time out

6 Tips for a Successful Time Out

Hey Mommies! I know that not all parents think that time outs are a good idea. I personally think they are a great way to provide a consequence without being physical and are very effective.

*Disclaimer: Post may contain affiliate links. Also, the boy in the picture is my son who was posing, not actually in time out.* 🙂

Sometimes kids just need to be removed from the situation that is causing an issue, and that is exactly what a time out is. It’s taking time away from whatever is happening. It’s a break. A chance to stop, take a step back, and reorganize.

Around 18 months, my son started pushing limits and showing some behaviors. This is when we started time outs. They were very effective for us.

So for those that also use time outs or are thinking of starting time outs, here are 6 tips for a successful time out.

1- Give Your Child a Warning– Let them know that they need to stop or they will go to time out. This gives them a chance and a choice to stop the behavior, or the consequence will be going to time out.

2- Follow Through!!!- This is the most important aspect of times outs. If you tell your child they are going to get a time out, but you never put them there, or are inconsistent with putting them there, then the time out will never be effective. You MUST follow through for the time out to be effective.

3- Engage/Respond as Little as Possible– When your child is in time out, engage and respond as little as possible to your child while they are in time out. Your child will likely be looking for attention and for you to react while they are in time out. They may cry, scream, yell, and/or try to get out of time out. Simply keep them safe, keep them in time out, and remain calm and unbothered.

4- Explain to Your Child WHY They Got a Time Out– Once your child has calmed some, go to them, and explain WHY they got a time out. You can start out by asking if they know why they got a time out. This is good for helping them be aware of their actions and that certain behaviors are not okay. Then proceed to explain why. For example, “You were hitting, and I asked you to stop. You did not stop, and it is not okay to hit, so you got a time out.”

5- Give Them a Hug and Tell Them You Love Them– Kids always need hugs and love. A time out may be hard for them, and it will help them feel better if you show you are there for them and understand that it was hard. Their behavior may not have been acceptable and that was the reason for their time out, but a hug and “I Love you” will be reassuring that you’re always there for them.

6- Move On and Don’t Dwell– Once the process is over, move on and don’t dwell on what happened. Jump right back in to your normal routine like nothing happened. There’s no reason to beat a dead horse.

These are the main 6 tips for a successful time out, and here are a few more things you may want to consider.

Some people choose to do a time out in their child’s room. I personally chose a different place in the house (sitting on the steps) for time out. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on my son. I didn’t want him to have toys as a distraction to play with, and I didn’t want his room to become negative to him in any way.

You can also find some cute and creative “Time Out” chairs and mats on Amazon to have a specific spot for time outs at home. For example:

timeoutmat     timeoutchair

As my son gets older, his room may be a better option, but to start, I personally didn’t feel it was the best for us.

Time outs do not have to just be used at home either. A couple times, I have put my son in time out in public. I’ve found a bench or place he could sit and have sat him there for a minute as his time out. The portable mat above could also work well to maintain consistency.

I follow the same process wherever I am. I warn him, follow through, remain unphased by his response, explain, hug him, and move on.

A time out does not have to be a “punishment.” It is just a consequence to an action. You are not being the big, bad, mean parent who’s punishing their child. You’re helping your child learn what is acceptable and unacceptable.

Time outs have been very effective for us and quickly put a stop to some unacceptable behaviors with my son. He’s gone through periods of testing limits and after a few time outs, the behavior stops.

I know every child is different and some may push and press limits harder than others, but in my experience, when done properly, time outs can really help.

Let me know what you think and your experiences in the comments below!

By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L

Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com

6 thoughts on “6 Tips for a Successful Time Out

  1. I’m a fellow pediatric OT and a mom, and I’m so glad you emphasized the importance of following through! One thing I’d add (which is a big component of the Love & Logic approach and works well both at home and in the preschool setting I work in, which uses Love & Logic) is the benefit of delivering a dose of empathy just prior to delivering the consequence. It can be a consistent word such as “uh oh!” or “bummer” or “ah man!” and then something like “that is so sad, looks like it’s time for _____” …something that serves as a predictable signal for the child but also communicates empathy prior to enforcing the consequence. It may sound silly, but it really does a nice job of keeping the importance of the relationship at the forefront of the interaction, rather than only focusing on the consequence and making the child feel like they are a naughty child and can’t do anything right (which is especially good for those feisty little ones that are ALWAYS finding themselves in trouble). I personally find that this type of interaction helps me remember that this is a learning experience for the child, and does not have to be an emotional experience that leaves me super frustrated or mad. It helps keep things calm and level, which is obviously an important component of interacting with young kids when they’re learning what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Thanks for posting on this topic!

  2. Good article. Thanks for posting; time-outs are a controversial topic at least in part because people have a different perception of what they are and how they can be successfully implemented.
    Here’s what I would add: As the article states, time-outs are a break for a child in a stressful situation. I believe that as a child ages and attempts to gain control of their environment they may sometimes lose control. Even as adults we may find it useful to remove ourselves from a stressful situation for a short period of time in order to regain our own composure. I believe that time-out gives a child that opportunity to regain their own composure and come to terms with the situation they found themselves in. I also believe this allows a child to develop independent coping skills. I do not believe that time-outs are appropriate for all situations or that a child should be made to feel ostracized or abandoned when used. A different form of time-out can be used that best meets the needs of a specific child in a specific situation. For example, a time-out for a child could mean sitting at table with a small comfort / sensory item or going to a separate area to burn some calories on a punching bag.
    Regardless of the method of the time-out, there should be an opportunity for the child to reflect on the situation that led to the time-out. This is a good topic for discussion and hope that some constructive dialogue can occur.

  3. I thought this was a very good summary of the use of time-outs–the reasons to do them and the usefulness of doing them.

    Check out my book “Max Learns about Time-outs” on Amazon.com for a good way to explain to a child what a time-out is.

  4. Good article, but when I was a toddler I hated time outs, oh well, I might do this for my kids if they get to silly, but I really don’t want too.

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