Time-outs and how to make them work!
Time-outs and how to make them work!

Key Points

  • Consider the purpose of a timeout.
  • Place your child in another room or a designated spot.
  • Provide behaviour specific praise for the good behavior in which they are engaged.

Time-outs are behaviour discipline technique used by parents and the one most often recommended by pediatricians and child development experts. But is it good for kids? Is it effective?

First we have to consider its purpose. A time-out is meant as discipline – or in other words, to teach the mind and body to do something in accordance with a set of rules or guidelines. As parents, we use time-outs to correct misbehavior. We use it teach our children how to behave in any given situation or circumstance.

We, as parents, need to remember it is about teaching acceptable behavior and not as punitive punishment of misbehavior.

Since discipline-related interactions between children and caregivers comprise a large amount of childhood experiences, it becomes vital that parents thoughtfully consider how they respond when kids misbehave. Time-outs can be very effective and helpful when used correctly. Follow these helpful hints to benefit and teach the skills you want your children to learn.

Time-Out Basics

During a time-out place your child in another room or designated spot. The time-out room should be safe, well-lit, and of a comfortable temperature; however it should be fairly boring. Remove all interesting toys and objects in advance.Try to leave the door open so that you can see the child in time-out. Use brief periods of time-out using the following guidelines:

2 year olds: 1–2 minutes 3–5 year olds: 3–5 minutes 5–10 year olds: 5–10 minutes

5. Teach your child the time-out process so he/she knows what to expect; talk about the rules and assess for understanding

6. Discuss specific behaviors with your child that will lead to a time-out.

Helpful Hints for Effective Time Out Outcomes

Encourage your child to have a calm body. Remind them that it is not time to play or read a book or do a quiet activity. It is a time to calm down. STICK TO THE TIME GUIDELINES – Children need you to relate in a temporal way what happened and the consequences. If you wait too long with them in timeout they will forget why they went there in the first place. The time-out should be finite (not arbitrary –“stay here until you are ready to behave”). Remain calm and quietly take your child to timeout. Do not negotiate or argue with them about the expectations or time they will spend in there.

Ignore any misbehavior in timeout. Just do it! Don’t threaten to use time out… actually use it.


When the time is up, talk to your child about why they were in time-out and what they can do next time to make a better choice that is aligned with the circumstances at hand. Be sure to catch them being good when time-out is over. Provide behavior specific praise for the good behavior in which they are engaged.

Humiliation and shame are not effective in changing behavior. We mustn’t make our children feel discouraged to feel better – it isn’t motivating.

All people deserve dignity and respect and maintaining that dignity and respect must be incorporated before time-out can be used as an effective and encouraging experience that helps children learn and grow.

Join us this Friday, September 23rd at 11:30am when Dr. Dana Visalli-Gold discusses time-outs and the small changes that create big results at home. Like the Optimal Beginnings FB page and tune-in for a LIVE chat with time for Q+A!

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