Does time-out work?
Time-out is something I’ve used during my career and with my own children, (posing here quite happily for the purpose of this post) and yet I feel some time-out techniques highlighted by TV shows give the time out bad press and because of this many are unwilling to see the positive side of such techniques.
As with any parenting ideas, (you can read my views on smacking here,) techniques and advice, at the end of the day it is you as a parent that decides what is best for you and your child. You are the parenting expert on your own child.
The topic of time-out prompted me to ask my followers on Twitter if they used the technique and the response was pretty amazing. Everyone who replied, agreed that they had at some point, used time out, and that it worked well when used properly.
In my career working with children I have always used ‘time out’ when it has been needed. The times I use it are usually when a child is hurting another or could potentially harm themselves. I do find distraction works far better and can help stop a tantrum or explosion happening (more tips on tantrums right here.)
Why use Time-Out?
When a child has lost control, are fighting, hurting or biting another child it is important to remove them from that situation so they can calm down and think about what has happened/what they have done and how they are feeling. I’m not talking therapy thinking here – just a little time away with you to calm and be/feel safe.
Time-out doesn’t always mean leaving a child on their own! I think many misunderstand the technique. I think it works and is much nicer a technique if you can sit with them an talk about their behaviour, (older toddlers) even cuddle them if they are very upset. Time-out is simply about removing them from the situation so they can calm down. Time-out is designed to stop unwanted behaviour and to give your child some time and space from the situation and for older children in particular , to think about that behaviour. Sometimes having time out from the situation can decrease frustration, anger, temper and all the other emotions that come bubbling.
Explain Time-out to your child! I have to stress here that it’s very important when using time out, to explain what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how long they are going to be there. Even with toddlers. Putting a child on a ‘naughty step’ with no explanation and fighting with them to sit there isn’t ideal and isn’t going to help them understand why they are there. It won’t help them to feel reassured and it’s unlikely to stop them doing whatever they did that needed time-out, again.
The Naughty step! I have many parents contacting me regarding the naughty step! Lots say they can’t get their child to sit on it and have long battles. The problem is in the question- why use a step? If your child refuses to sit on the step because they are angry, it’s OK! As long as you have removed them from the situation they were in, you have achieved time-out
Top Tips for successful Time-Out!
1. Only use Time out as a last resort. Try and talk through situations first, or use avoidance/distraction techniques. I use time out if a child is endangering themselves or others.
2. Think of a space in your home where time out can be used. Avoid bedrooms – it’s not good to make sleeping places negative spaces! (A little rhyme for you there!)
3. ALWAYS explain what you are doing and why. Talk about the time out place before you use it. Talk them through the first time you use it and never leave your child crying there for long periods of time. This defeats the whole point of time out.
4. ALWAYS get your little one to apologise to the person they have hurt. This encourages understanding feelings of others and empathy.
5. Don’t use a timer. A minute for each age is silly. Your child is 2 one day and 3 the next – that’s a whole minute more and makes no difference whatsoever! It’s not necessary. Use your judgement on what you think will work best for your child. I find sometimes even 30 seconds is enough to make them understand what they did was wrong.
6. Be consistent! Whatever time out technique you decide to use, ensure you do it the same way each time so the process is predictable and understandable to your child.
7. ALWAYS reassure and cuddle after time out has been used and don’t keep going over their silly/harmful behaviour or reminding them of what they did.
I use time out because I want my children to learn responsibility, sensitivity, empathy, and sharing – very important life skills that help them succeed in life and develop healthy relationships with others.
The point in educating little ones about their negative behaviour is that we want them to eventually learn how to stop themselves from using those negative behaviours and find a better way for themselves and to live and play happily alongside others.