10 Secrets to Implementing Timeouts at Home

The purpose of a timeout is to remove a child from an enjoyable experience, when they have misbehaved, and have them placed in an area free from distraction in order to calm down and reflect on their behavior. Listed below are ten secrets to implementing timeouts at home.

  1. Correct Age. Children under the age of two, really do not grasp the concept of timeouts. However, even though starting between the ages of two and three is more appropriate you need to understand each child and his or her abilities.
  2. Length. Small children are unable to be still for a long length of time. Make sure that the length of the timeout is appropriate for the child’s age. A good rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age.
  3. Be Consistent. Try to use the same spot each time for a timeout. Whether you choose a chair, bottom step or a corner of a wall doesn’t matter, as long as it is the same place each time. Make sure that everyone else in the home is implementing the same procedure.
  4. Set a Timer. This will help if you tend to forget about the time, so your child will not be stuck in a timeout for too long. It also helps the child to pay attention and keep quiet until the timer goes off, so that they are not constantly asking when they can get out.
  5. Communication. In addition to using a timeout, you want to make sure that you speak with the child both before and after the timeout. First, make sure that they understand why they are receiving a consequence. This should be a brief one sentence statement of what they did wrong. Then once it is over you can discuss how their behavior affects others.
  6. Be Firm. A timeout should be a time for reflection. Do not let the child move around or mumble and grumble. This is also not a time for a lecture. Not only should the child be silent, but you shouldn’t be interacting with them either.
  7. Start Over. If the child is not obeying the timeout by trying to leave the timeout area or starting to talk during the timeout, then it should start all over, and the timer should be reset.
  8. Follow Through. If you tell a child that you are going to put them in a timeout if they do not behave, be prepared to follow through and do it. As with any threats of punishment to a child, you need to be able to enact the consequence, or they will not take you seriously in the future.
  9. Immediate. Timeouts need to be implemented immediately after the offense. If they are acting up at dinner time, you need to take them to a timeout right away and not wait until the meal is over.
  10. Simplistic. Do not try to use this time to reason with a child. All they need to hear is ‘we don’t hit’. They do not need a ten minute lecture.

Timeouts can be a very effective diversion from inappropriate behavior.  If you follow the tips listed above, you should see some successful timeouts.

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