How to Manage Child Behaviour Problems – Using Time-Out for Serious Behaviour

There’s nothing really complicated about using time-out for serious behaviour   (a.k.a naughty chair, naughty step, solitary confinement).  It does work…if done properly.  Time-out is suitable for 2 – 10 year olds.

Use time-out for those more serious problems such as fighting and/or hurting others.

I have met and worked with several parents who were adamant that time-out just doesn’t work for their child and for a few of these parents it is indeed the case.  However, for the majority, there needed to be a tweak to their way of applying it and voilà, it worked!

Benefits of Time-Out

The thing with time-out is that not only does it help correct the misbehaviour but it also helps your child learn self-control, self-regulation and what acceptable behaviour is.

As for you, the parents, it helps you stay calm while dealing with the misbehaviour by avoiding any shouting, threatening or smacking.  So really, time-out gives everyone the chance to calm down.

Difference Between Quiet-time and Time-out

Quiet-time involves you moving your child away from the activity and/or everyone else for a short time but remain in the same room.

With time-out, you remove your child to a different area completely, so out of the room.  The area you use for time-out is crucial.  There are plenty of children who cannot wait to be sent to their bedrooms because, they have all they need in there anyway!

The time-out area, needs to be safe, well lit and airy and it must not have exciting and interesting things to do.  It needs to be safe yet as dull as can be.  Lock away anything you think might be dangerous or breakable.

What happens in Time-out?

Before using time-out with your child, explain what the entire routine entails.  This is very important to do.  Talk through the steps, explain the rules and check that they understand.

When your child is in time-out:

  • Do not engage with them, even if they call out.  By responding to their calls and shouts, your are denying them the opportunity to learn self-control as well as what the correct behaviour is.
  • If they attempt to leave the time-out area, you may want to shut the door or, if there is no door to shut, you will need to keep taking your child back.  The whole purpose of time-out is for your child to be able to remain quiet for the allocated time (One minute of quiet for 2 year olds, 2 minutes for 3 – 5 year olds and a maximum of 5 minutes can be used for children aged between 5 and 10 years.) Once they have done so, they may come out.  Keep note that short periods in time-out are more effective than longer ones.

How to Use Time-out

  • When the problem occurs, act quickly and tell your child what to do.
  • Go up to your child, get their attention by calling their name and tell them what to stop doing and what they need to do instead.  “Lilly, stop throwing the toys. You could hurt someone. Keep them on the floor.”  If your child does as requested, do praise them.
  • If your child does not stop the misbehaviour within 5 seconds of your request, tell them that they have not done as your asked – and the consequence – they will now go to time-out.  Remain calm and firm and avoid responding to their protests and definitely don’t argue with them.  What if your child refuses to go?  Pick them up and take them.
  • Once in the time-out area, do remind your child of the rules i.e. that they need to be quiet for the set time before they can leave the time-out area.
  • What if they continue to misbehave while in time-out?  As long as they are not hurting themselves, in danger or breaking things, ignore them.  Time-out will not work if your respond to protests, screaming, shouting etc and your child will not learn how to calm themselves down.  Remember to keep any potentially dangerous items out of their reach.  Your child will need to have been quiet for the full length of the allocated time to be able to come out.  Once they have done so, they can come out.   Be prepared for them to protest, especially in the beginning.  Be patient and be consistent.
  • Once your child is out of time-out, don’t talk about it.  It’s over.  Avoid engaging in a lengthy discussion around what happened and why it happened.  It really doesn’t serve any purpose.  Instead, help your child find something to do.  If your see your child is now behaving well, remember to praise them.  However, if the problem re-emerges, then repeat the time-out  routine.  If it helps, look at it more like training your child, as opposed to disciplining them.
  • It helps to keep track of your child’s changing behaviour once you start using time-out.  Keep a note of when you use time-out and how long it takes your child to calm down.  You may find that, as you continue using time-out, your child is calming down much sooner than before and that you are using time-out routine much less often.

If after 2 weeks there are no changes in your child’s misbehaviour, then do get in touch and I can help you work out what is going on.

For more parenting tips visit my youtube channel.

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