Guidelines for time-out

Time-out is a type of discipline that is used following a behavior to decrease the likelihood that the behavior occurs again. Time-out removes a child from the situation and gives him or her time to calm down. It also helps establish that the parent is in charge, and allows the child to think about what has done. Time-outs are useful for aggressive and harmful behaviors in toddlers and preschool-aged children. These behaviors indicate that the environment at that moment is too much for the child to handle, and they need to be removed.

Where should a time-out occur?

The place for time-out to occur should be chosen ahead of time, not at the time of the behavior. The following are some examples of places for time-out:

  • Chairs or corners of the room (not an expensive chair)
  • A stair
  • Near the front door
  • A designated room, not a bathroom or closet

How long should a time-out last?

  • Until the child is calm.

Placing your child in time-out

  • The reason the child is being sent to time-out should be explained to him in very brief and clear statements. For example, “You hit, time-out.”
  • If the child does not go to time-out on his own, lead him or her there.
  • Do not spank or yell on the way to time-out.
  • If you pay any attention to them at all, it isn’t a time-out.

Stopping time-out

  • As a parent, you decide when time-out is over, not the child. If the child "escapes" during time-out, return him.
  • Tell your child time-out is over and allow him to resume normal activities.
  • Treat the child normally after time-out. Do not lecture about the behavior or force an apology.