How to Make Time-Out an Effective Discipline Strategy

Best Practices for Time Out

How to make time-out most effective.
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Time-out can be a very effective behavior modification tool when it’s used appropriately.The ultimate goal of time-out should be for kids to learn how to take a self-time out before they get in trouble. But many parents aren't using time-out effectively. Here's how you can get use time-out to curb misbehavior fast:

Explain the Time Out Process to Your Child

If you’re introducing time-out to your child for the first time or you’re changing the time-out process, explain it to your child ahead of time.

Place your child in time-out when he breaks a household rule or refuses to follow directions.

Explain the time-out rules and make your expectations clear. For example, say, “You’ll have a time-out in your room for five minutes, but the timer won’t start until you are quiet. I’ll tell you when you can come out of your room.”

Read More: How to Use Time Out to Manage Behavior Problems

Use Time Out Sparingly

Time-out loses effectiveness when used too often. If you placing your child in time-out multiple times throughout the day, your child will stop responding to it. Alternate time-out with other discipline techniques, like taking away privileges.

Offer One Warning

Certain behaviors should result in an automatic time-out, such as physical aggression. Other behavior, however, should be addressed with a warning first.

If you tell your child to stop climbing on the furniture and he doesn’t listen, warn him that you’ll place him in time-out if the behavior doesn’t change.

You can use an if…then statement or use the counting method described in 1-2-3 Magic.

Follow Through with Time-Out

Don’t offer repeated warnings or keep giving your child second chances. Also, don’t forgo time out if your child whines or pleads with you that he’ll change his behavior. Show him that you're serious about following through with a consequence.

Use a Consistent Time-Out Space

Whether you choose to use your child’s bedroom, a chair, or another section of your house, keep the time-out space consistent. Prepare ahead for the possibility of giving your child a time-out in a public space. Use a bench at the front of a store or have your child serve time out in the car, if necessary.

Have a Back Up Plan

Avoid a power struggle with your child if he refuses time out. Don’t argue, yell or try to force your child to go. Instead, make it clear that a refusal to go to time out will result in a more serious consequence.

Final Thoughts

Offer one warning to your child about what the consequence will be if he doesn’t go to time out. For example, take away a privilege for a specified amount of time. Say, “If you don’t go to time out now, you’ll lose your electronics for the next 24 hours.”

If your child still refuses to go to time out, follow through with the alternative negative consequence. Then, next time he has the option to go time out, he may choose to go rather than receive the more serious consequence.

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