Parents - Tune In To Time Out
By Linda Milo
Most parents in America know what “time out” means. It's simply an
effective tool parents use to encourage their misbehaving child to
learn to behave. It is a teaching technique. It isn't a punishment,
but rather a way for your child to control their own behavior.
Time-out gives both of you time to calm down. It is a practice that
allows you to react effectively without anger and distress. Since
your child will test your limits often, time-out is a preventive
measure that stops your child from pushing your hot buttons. Parents
discover that over time, if they are consistent, with no giving in,
time-out really works and it works without scolding or threatening
Time-out is usually used when a child is arguing,
using improper language, being disobedient, whining, throwing
things, hitting, or having a tantrum. The only time you really
shouldn't use time-out is when your child is crying. This form of
discipline will only increase the need for further crying. It also
sends a message to your child that you don't care about his
feelings, which will make your child feel resentful, insecure,
anxious, or frustrated. Allow your child to cry to release his
feelings and after your child is finished crying, talk with your
child about why he was feeling so sad. Be sympathetic while speaking
to your child and let him know you care.
Time-out works because it's a method where your
child can see and know that you are backing up what you are saying,
i.e., “If you don't stop whining, then there'll be time-out for
you.” It's a situation where actions speak louder than words! It's a
way to deal with a problem right away, while helping your child
understand what he did wrong. Time out is something that can easily
and quickly be accomplished. Most children truly don't like time-out
because it takes them away from something they enjoy doing.
To effectively accomplish the purpose of time-out,
parents need to be aware that there are several guidelines.
First, parents should not use time-out for
children under the age of two. A two-year-old child has no concept
of time-out and will feel abandoned, misunderstood and unloved.
Second, only pick time-out for a single
misbehavior that you want eliminated. Be sure your child
understands the misbehavior.
Third, always explain to your child that if the
misbehavior doesn't cease, then he will experience time-out. Don't
try to explain time-out shortly after a blow-up. Explain time-out
and how it works when things are going well. Choose a good time.
Also describe the use of the timer.
Fourth, never use time-out as a surprise. Prepare
your child for your actions by letting him know that when he
misbehaves you will be using time-out. A parent should remain calm
and detached from the disturbing situation. Your child should
understand when and how you will use time-out. Talk often with
your child about what to do the next time. This will help your
child set limits on his behavior. This makes for better
communication and understanding between you.
Every parent has a different way of presenting
time-out. Some parents use a kitchen egg timer or some parents use a
buzzer. They place it on a table, in a room that offers no
distractions, such as laundry room or a spare bedroom. The setting
for time-out must be completely safe. Remove anything in the room
that may cause your child any harm. Check the room twice to make
sure it is safe. Then calmly tell their child to sit in a chair
quietly until the timer rings. Again, explain to your child that you
want the misbehavior to stop. Once you've told your child that they
have earned time-out, do not change your mind or be fooled by your
child's sudden obedience and cooperative ways. Leave your child in
the room with the timer (with or without the door open) and tell
your child that you'll be right next-door. Time-out is an occasion
for both you and your child to regain balance and a sense of
Set the timer for two to five minutes. Start the
timer once your child is seated and quiet. If your child starts to
scream or have a tantrum while in time-out, just simply ignore it.
After the timer rings, go to your child. Don't lecture your child
after time-out. In fact, change the subject matter when your child
exists the room. Explaining right and wrong can take place at
another more amenable time.
Time-out is a technique that gives your child the
opportunity to sense when his control is slipping. This will
actually give your child the chance to give himself a time-out when
he experiences himself losing control. Many children will cease
misbehaving once they see their parent reach for the timer. They
know what's coming and they modify their own behavior to become more
Long time-outs don't change your child's behavior,
but using time-out consistently does modify behavior. I've never
heard of any child who was emotionally damaged by being asked to sit
alone for two to five minutes. Always remember to be calm and in
control when you are using time-out. Even though parents use
time-out for misbehaviors, they should be using positive
reinforcement for good behaviors as often as possible. So do
yourself a favor and tune in to “time-out.”
Linda Milo, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, specializes in
helping mothers and fathers turn their parenting challenges into a
more livable, more workable, and more enjoyable family life. Her
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