The purpose of imposing time out on children is to provide a cooling off period and a clear unrewarding consequence for misbehaving children. Time out when used consistently and frequently most children will eventually accept it without much aggression. Some children may even put themselves in time out when they feel they are losing control.
3 Steps for Setting up Time-out
Below are the 3 main steps to guide parents on setting up a successful time out for misbehaving children:
1. Choose the right time out location.
Preferably this should be a dull boring but safe room for a child to be alone in. If you have no choice but to use the children room you should remove the toys and games. For younger children between ages of four and eight a ‘time out chair’ in an empty corner of a room or hall away from all family activities can be a substitute.
2. Decide the types of behavior that will result in time out.
Usually those misbehavior that could not be ignored such as hitting noncompliance and destructive behaviors deserve a time out. Select one or two to focus on initially you can then move on to the next misbehavior when these selected ones have been reduced.
3. Determine time out length.
As a rule of thumb three minutes for three-year-old four minutes for four-year-old and five minutes for five and older. Time outs longer than 5 minutes are not more effective.
7 Tips for Successful Time Out
In order for time out imposed on misbehaving children to be effective parents could adopt the following tips:
1. Inform and enforce.
Always begin by telling your child what he did that is unacceptable. Give him a warning where possible and tell him in a firm calm voice to go to time out. (Warning in the event of hitting or destructive behavior is not appropriate as this type of misbehavior should result in an automatic timeout.)
2. Set a timer.
Once the child is in time out set a timer for three or five minutes and leave him alone. It is vital not to talk to him while he is in timeout.
3. Insist silence for two minutes.
The child must stay quiet for at least two minutes before being allowed to come out of time out.
4. Repeat the command.
When time out is used because of the child did not do something he was told to do parent should repeat the original command once timeout is over. If the child still refuses to obey then the entire time out sequence would have to be repeated.
5. Use of extra time out.
For children under six years of age who refuses to go to time out parent can gently but firmly take them to timeout. However for those over six years of age parent should enforce ‘one minute extra’ for each refusal to go to time out up to ten minutes.
6. Be prepared to handle child leaving timeout.
If the misbehaving child comes out of timeout prematurely calmly return him with a warning of lose of privilege (e.g. no television for the evening bike locked up for 24 hours). For younger child who gets off a timeout chair there should be a warning too e.g. ‘If you get off the chair again you will go to timeout room.’
7. Be positive.
Inappropriate behavior will usually get worse before it gets better when time out is first used. Be positive about this. If the time out is used for hitting or destructive behavior then once timeout is over parent should look for the children first positive behavior and praise him to reinforce it.
Time out removed misbehaving children from all sources of positive reinforcement especially adult attention. Time out has the advantage over lecturing and spanking by providing a nonviolent response to conflict. It stops the conflict and frustration by allowing a cooling-off period for both children and parents.