Home > Punishments & Tactics > Using 'Time Out' as a Punishment

Using 'Time Out' as a Punishment

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 4 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Time Out Time Out Chair Time Out Area

Today's parents are almost universally familiar with the concept of a "time out" as a disciplinary technique, with most finding it to be quite effective in teaching kids to learn behavioural control. Children as young as 18 months can benefit from taking a few moments of quiet reflection giving them the opportunity to calm down before returning to play.

Consistency in Discipline
Like all disciplinary measures, time outs are only effective when used with consistency. Parents or other carers who threaten a time outs but fail to follow through when children misbehave have a negative, rather than a positive effect on the children's behaviour, giving them the idea that they can misbehave without consequences.

Children need to learn that the adults in their lives set rules, expect them to be honoured, and will issue disciplinary measures if the rules are disregarded. Parents need to be firm but calm when punishing children for misdeeds, showing the kids that self-control is something to strive for.

Utilising Time Outs
Most advocates of time outs recommend that children be required to remain in the time out area one minute for each year of age. For example, five year olds would be expected to remain in time out, quietly, for a period of five minutes before being allowed to return to their activities. While very young children may have trouble remaining on a chair for two minutes, older children should be made to understand that the time will start only once they have quieted down, encouraging them to calm and quiet down quickly.

Choosing the designated area for time outs matters - it should be free of distractions and isolated from other activities. Good choices include a chair in the corner of a room or a spot on the floor, away from others who may still be engaged in active play.

Parents should not converse with children who are in a time out, instead allowing the child time to regain their composure and reflect on their behaviour. Another important component of the time out is the requirement that children should apologise for their misdeed before being released and the parent or carer should then provide the child with a hug, sending the child back to play with a good feeling.

Understanding Consequences
One of the most beneficial aspects of utilising time outs is their ability to help children understand that their actions have consequences. Rather than offering multiple warnings, time outs should be given after only one warning so that children learn to control their behaviour and follow household rules, with consequences attached to non-compliance.

When giving instruction to children, parents should speak clearly and firmly, but with kindness. If the child fails to do as asked, a warning about consequences should be issued. "If you do not do as I asked, you will have to have a time out." Once the time out habit has been established, one warning should be all that is required to get children to comply with the requests of adults. If children fail to do as they are asked, even after the warning, the adult should direct them to the time out area, with increased firmness in their voice. Again, it is important for the adult to remain calm - it does no good for both parties to be emotionally charged! After the child has remained calmly in the time out for the specified time frame, the adult can go to the child, ask for and accept an apology, offer a reminder about the desired behaviour, and release the child with a warm hug.

Firm Kindness
The goal of the time out, as well as other disciplinary measures used for children, should be to encourage desired behaviours by providing examples of firm kindness. It is never acceptable to hit, yell at, or belittle a child for misbehaving, which only gives them the impression that it is acceptable to hit, yell, and talk down to people, the very messages that most parents are trying to avoid. Disciplining with love and kindness shows children that they are deserving of respect, which will help them to grow into respectful and respectable people.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Always Rocked
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    This is such a relief that there are many others like me. My mom told me that I used to rock myself to sleep in my crib. From a young…
    19 February 2018
  • Sookie
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    I rocked back and forth alot during my chid hood until about age 19. I force myself to stop because I did not want people to think I…
    19 February 2018
  • Tonya
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    My son is now 8 years old and has rocked since he was a baby. He also humms or says words repeatedly. like a mantra. He does have…
    16 February 2018
  • Vick
    Re: Questionnaire: Does Your Child Have ADHD?
    My son is 7 he hits out at me is very nasty to his sister perfect at school doesn't listen to me at all climbs…
    15 February 2018
  • Rocker
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    I’m 60 yrs old - I’ve rocked my entire life. I’m intelligent, productive, successful and I love to rock – perhaps the reason I love…
    15 February 2018
  • Tb8791
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    My 4yo does this and says choice words over and over. At first it was just “mamma, daddy” but now it’s any 2 or 3 word phrase on her…
    11 February 2018
  • Tippy
    Re: Child Anxiety Disorders
    My son aged 4 attends nursery and hits other children almost daily, he can be quite aggressive towards his siblings and his Dad and l, he…
    7 February 2018
  • car
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    Both my twin Daughters did this rocking all of there childhood up to adult hood. They both ended up with schizophrenia in there late…
    3 February 2018
  • Gammy
    Re: Children and Whining
    Hi Angie, My daughter and her two kids are living with us until my daughter finishes up her Masters degree. My granddaughter is 5 years…
    26 January 2018
  • Laura
    Re: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
    My 10-year -old son goes beserk if I ask him to do simple things , he hits and bites himself , goes in his upstairs…
    22 January 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the KidsBehaviour website. Please read our Disclaimer.