Time-Out Mistakes

Taking a time-out is many parents’ go-to punishment when their child is acting up. Have you ever noticed that sometimes it simply does not work? Parents often make mistakes that can reduce the success of time-outs. Here’s what not to do:

Giving Attention

Did you know that the term “time-out” was originally short for “time-out from positive reinforcement”? Kids crave attention, even if it isn’t positive attention. Providing attention to a child’s misbehavior can end up encouraging them to misbehave more. Taking that attention away from them helps them see that bad behavior leads to losing attention rather than getting it.

Sad Toddler in Time-Out

Using It Too Much

Time-outs should not be used to get children to think about what they did. In reality, the child is probably not thinking about it at all, and you can’t control their thoughts. It should instead be used to stop a situation from getting worse. The child learns from what they did by taking a break from the situation and trying to do it right the next time around.

Using It for the Wrong Reason

If a child is put in time-out for all types of problems or if it is used too often, the behavior may get worse. Time-outs are best used on young children who retaliate by hitting or those who intentionally do the opposite of what is asked of them. 

If you ask parents how they use time-outs, you will probably get a variety of different answers. Researchers have written out the most effective way to implement time-outs:

One Clear Warning

Rather than repeating yourself multiple times, provide a single warning before putting your child in time-out. Doing so before every time-out can significantly reduce the number of time-outs needed. If the child does not begin cooperating after five seconds, follow through with the time-out.

Announce Time-Out

Briefly reiterate what was done wrong (“No hitting. Time-out.”) and then escort your child to a chair to take a time-out. Experts advise against sending your child to their room as they will have toys, books, etc. to entertain them. It is best to offer an explanation before or after the time-out, not during it. Reprimanding them while they are in time-out means giving them attention, which you want to avoid.

Start a Clock

Many parents use the “one minute for every year of age” rule when it comes to how long their child stays in time-out. Brief time-outs of one to three minutes are effective for toddler-age children.

End the Time-Out

Even if your child is still fussy, once the timer goes off, time-out is over. Follow these steps each time time-outs are needed and you should start needing them less and less. 

Children’s World

At Children’s World Learning Center, we know that the early years of life matter because early experiences affect the brain. As a child’s brain grows, the quality of the experiences that a child has creates either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all of the development and behaviors that follow. Parents want to make educated choices for their families, and getting things right the first time is better than trying to fix them later. Contact us today!



By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy. You can also disable cookies entirely in your browser settings.