Using time out effectively

using time out effectivelySome parents have found ‘time out’ works to stop unacceptable behaviour like hitting, biting and kicking, but it should be used as a last resort. Here are some tips on how to do it safely and effectively.

Any behaviour management strategies will work best when we understand the developmental stages our children are at.

Time out doesn’t work for children under 18 months of age because they’re not old enough to understand what’s happening. With younger children distraction works best.

How does it work?

Time out works by stopping your child from getting attention. It’s about behaviour change not punishment. It also gives everyone a chance to calm down. Before using time out, talk about it with your child, explain to them what it will be used for and agree on the place where it will be.

“For time out to work, a child first needs a lot of quality time in!”

It doesn’t always mean taking your child to a separate room. For younger children, pick an area that is uninteresting, but not frightening or isolating, like a chair, step, or corner of a room. With older children, you could put them in a separate room. But again, make sure it is safe and not frightening for them.

Using time out

  • Give your child a warning. Tell them what behaviour is unacceptable and say you will put them in time out if the behaviour doesn’t stop. If they stop, give them lots of praise.
  • If the behaviour doesn’t stop, calmly take your child to a safe place where you can leave them for a short time. Time out works best for short periods – one minute for each year of a child’s age is enough.
  • Stay calm and try not to get angry. Don’t talk to your child or give them any other attention. If your child tries to leave the time out area before time is up calmly take them back. Repeat as necessary.
  • A timer can help signal clearly to everyone that time is up. Explain what happened and make sure you notice their good behaviour and give them lots of praise.

Important points to remember

  • If you give a warning, follow through with it. React straight away to behaviour such as hitting – even if it’s just moving the child to a different corner of the room. If you give lots of warnings and do nothing, your child learns they can keep doing things that are unacceptable.
Things to try when a child is hitting
  • Stay calm – breath deeply and remind yourself your child is young and learning.
Read more about staying calm
  • Always tell your child what is happening and why. If they are too upset to listen, talk to them when they are calm again.
  • Don’t change your mind or negotiate during the time out time.
  • Time out doesn’t work if you use it too often or for too long.
  • When it’s over, it’s over. Start a new game or activity.
  • Time out works best when you combine it with lots of praise for good behaviour.

Reference: SKIP  Strategies for kids

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