In today’s video chat I talk about time-out do’s and don’ts. Click the video below to watch.View Transcript
Dana Obleman: Hi. I’m Dana.
A couple of days ago I put up a blog on the site…my reaction to an article about “Time outs being harmful.” I don’t believe that they are harmful. In fact, I believe that they’re an excellent tool for discipline, and I do think it’s important that our children learn and understand that there is consequences to certain behaviors.
Today I want to give some tips around “Time out dos and don’ts.” They can be really effective but you need to understand what to do and what not to do to make sure that they curb a behavior, and also work in a way that’s productive and not harmful.
Number one tip around time outs is to have a designated time out spot that is not the child’s bedroom. A child’s bedroom is really their inner…their sanctuary. It’s where they go for sleep which is wonderful, it’s where they go to do some playing, and I don’t want to fracture that relationship they have with their bedroom, so definitely not there.
Also, it’s fun in that bedroom, or it should be fun, and if that’s the time out spot as well, “Well, I get to go in there and play with my toys, and that’s not so bad.”
It should be some sort of spot that’s boring, let’s say. It has to be boring because we want your child to not want to go there. A time out chair, a time out step, a time out spot.
In our house it was the laundry room that was the time out room. We always joke that our children will have issues around laundry when they’re adults [laughs] because they spend a lot of time in the laundry room for a time out.
Somewhere that’s relatively boring and safe. We want them to be safe while they’re in a time out, absolutely. That’s the spot that they go to.
Tip number two is that you first give one warning around the behavior, one warning and one warning only. This is one of the things I see parents make so many mistakes around, it’s random warnings. Sometimes it’s no warning, sometimes it’s 50 warnings, and that really is so difficult for a child, because there’s no predictability around it.
It should always be one warning and the good news is if it’s always one warning, your warnings become effective. You don’t feel like a broken record, and you’re not going to get angry because you’ve given 50 warnings. Your child will start responding to the warning when they know it’s only ever one.
For example, if a child is asking for something in a whining voice, I’d say, “That’s warning number one, please ask politely” or model back what you want them to say in an appropriate tone of voice, “Can I have some juice, please” and see if they respond. If they don’t and they ask for it in the same whining way, then it’s off to time out.
It should be timed appropriately as well. A good rule of thumb around timing is basically one minute for every age your child is. If your child is four, for example, then a time out is four minutes.
Tip number three around time outs is that there should be a timer. This is a time out. [laughs] It makes sense to me that there would be a timer involved.
That’s a great way to separate the fact that it’s not just you saying, “You have to sit here for x amount of minutes. It’s now the timer’s responsibility to keep track of how long you have to sit in that chair, and when the bell goes, you’re done!
A child might not stay on the step, the chair, or wherever the spot is, initially. If this is a brand new thing that you’re doing, “I’m going to get up off this chair,” you’re going to return them to the spot, start the timer again, and explain, “Every time you get up, I’ve to start this timer again. The more you get up the longer this is going to take.
Soon enough, a child will understand that, “I’d better just do my time and sit here until that buzzer goes, because that’s the fastest way out of this situation.”
It’s really OK if your child’s upset when they’re having a time out. It’s not so that they can sit there calmly, and contemplate what they’ve done wrong. I don’t know a child who does that.
It’s OK that they’re upset while they’re experiencing this time out, because that’s the consequence. In this particular situation, a consequence is a negative feeling. We don’t want them to love it on the naughty step, because then it’s not an effective consequence.
If they’re upset, they’re upset. Let them be upset. That’s their business, it’s their right, they can do whatever they want while they’re sitting there.
Once the timer goes, let it be done. You don’t need to sit down and have a 10 minute conversation about what they did and why it was wrong. That’s overkill.
I also I’m not a huge fan of forced apologies around a time out either. I worry that saying I’m sorry becomes meaningless to your child, and it’s just a way to get this thing over with, say “I’m sorry” and move on. There’s no processing going on there.
When somebody says they’re sorry, they should really legitimately be sorry for what they’ve done. Don’t force an apology.
I don’t think there’s anything else to talk about. Once the timer’s gone, you carry on with your day, move past it, and continue.
If it’s a reoccurring behavior, you’re doing the teaching on the front end. You’re giving the warning, you are modeling the appropriate way, and if they choose not to respond, then that’s again up to them.
I hope that gives you a clear path for using time outs effectively.
Thanks so much. Sleep well.
Transcription by CastingWords
And, if you are looking to teach kids other appropriate behaviors, you can check out Kids: The Manual. It’s a child discipline system for kids aged 2 – 12.
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