Who needs a time out? We all do at some point, but kids need them a lot! Time outs are just one form of discipline and can be very effective when done correctly. Kids hate to sit still and be ignored so time outs are a great way to drive a point home. When completed, have your child apologize for his or her actions and get on with your day. Don’t worry, you aren’t inflicting permanent psychological damage on your children if you discipline them, in fact, you can do more damage by not redirecting their behavior. Your job as a parent is to mold your children into responsible, productive citizens and if you don’t, you aren’t doing them any favors. No time outs or other forms of discipline at home may lead to a big time out in your child’s future at the penitentiary, so help them to avoid that eventual fate now while you can.
So how exactly do time outs work? Find a spot in your house where your child can be both supervised and ignored. Sending them to their room is dangerous for several reasons. One, they might love their room and it wouldn’t be much of a punishment to dispatch them to one of their favorite places, especially if they have a computer, TV, music player, and/or phone in there. Two, they can get into more trouble alone in their room, perhaps taking their anger at you out on their possessions. And three, it’s more rewarding for you to see the look of remorse on their faces in plain view than to imagine them sulking on their bed! The bottom step of the stairs or a special chair in the corner of the family room are just two examples of good places for time outs.
What qualifies a child for a time out? Any unsavory behavior that you want to nip in the bud like hitting, biting, back-talking, or lying. Be sure to pick your battles though. If your child is sitting on the step more often than not, it’s possible that you’re being overly vigilant. Learn to separate your child’s accidental offenses over their purposeful defiance. If she accidentally spills a drink on the carpet, it’s quite unreasonable to discipline her. Simply remind her to keep her cup in the kitchen where it belongs and have her help you clean it up. However, if she decides the white carpet would be much prettier if it was pink and purposefully ‘paints’ it with her juice, that’s a different story altogether. Time out! And still have her help you clean it up.
As a rule of thumb, have your child sit in time out for as many minutes as their age. Two year olds for two minutes, three year olds for three minutes, etc. When they reach a certain age, of which only you can determine, they will be way too old for time outs…maybe around tween age. This is where grounding comes in. This is time out for big kids. Think of it as house arrest without the ankle bracelet. Kids this age love to be social, so take away what really matters to them, their freedom. If your child still lives with you when they become an adult, you can’t really do much in the way of discipline besides ultimatums. Tell them it’s your way or the highway. Hopefully by the time they reach adulthood, all the great parenting you’ve bestowed upon them for the past eighteen years will have made them respectful adults who honor their parents.
What if your child refuses to stay in time out? You have to show them who’s boss and keep placing him or her back in it until your point is made. This could take hours the first few times, but your hard work will pay off in the end and as an added bonus, you’ll get a good workout. Purchase a timer you can place near your child while he or she is sitting there to illustrate the ‘time’ portion of the punishment. The time out is really just a way of getting a kid who’s out of control and his mind back to a center of calm and focus. If kid’s realized this, they’d probably be thankful for being put in time out.
What happens if your child loses his or her temper or misbehaves in public? If you’re at another person’s house and this occurs, simply pick a time out spot and employ the same method you do at home. If it happens at a store or restaurant, take your child out to the car and give them a time out there. Most stores are fine with you leaving your shopping cart and all of its contents in a secure area while you dash outside for a couple of minutes. Actually, they would probably prefer this over you stubbornly keeping a screaming, miserable child in the store to disturb the other shoppers and employees. If you’re at a restaurant alone with your child, simply ask for doggy bags, pay your check, and hit the road. This will benefit you, your out-of-control kid, and the other patrons who want to enjoy a peaceful meal they are paying good money for.
What if time outs don’t work for your child? The key to making this technique successful is persistence and consistency. If you aren’t having luck, keep trying for a few months to see if it ‘takes’. If not, you might have to think of another method of disciplining your child. Behavior charts, taking away privileges, or sending him or her to bed early may be more effective for your particular child. Parenthood is about trial and error. Every kid comes with his or her own set of rules and your job is to figure it all out and act accordingly. Don’t break your children’s spirits but do mold and shape them into the masterpieces they are meant to be!