I’ve read several articles recently claiming that ‘time out’ is damaging to children. Parenting is hard enough without conflicting evidence on what we should or should not be doing, particularly if we feel we are then judged by others. When done in a calm and safe way, ‘time out’ can be an effective strategy for parents and children. It enables children to calm down, reflect, and regulate emotion before coming back in to the situation. It stops behaviour escalating, a skill children need to learn to be well adjusted later on in life. Different experts favour different techniques so we’ve put together the key principles.
‘Time out’ is time away from your attention. If you lose your cool, you will be rewarding your child with intense attention and increasing the likelihood of them repeating the behaviour.
Use a safe space for ‘time out’. Keep an eye on your child without giving attention.
Have plenty of ‘time in’
‘Time-in’ is plenty of happy, enjoyable time together. Making positive time happen can take real effort when a child has developed a pattern of negative behaviour. But without ‘time in’, ‘time out’ becomes business as usual. It loses its power.
‘Time out’ is time without attention. Avoid getting in to conversation with your child, simply state why they are going and for how long. Use a kitchen timer in order to take you out of the equation. Pleading to you doesn’t do any good, because the timer is in charge.
Make ‘time outs’ short
The whole point is to teach your child that a particular behaviour is unacceptable. If ‘time out’ is too long, the child forgets what it’s about and it ceases to teach them anything. They may feel angry and resentful instead. Short ‘time outs’ (10 minutes max) enables more opportunity for the child to learn it is unacceptable.
Don't threaten – act
‘Time out’ needs to be predictable and consistent. It needs to follow on from misbehaviour in order for your child to link them. Your child should know if they misbehave and you say ‘time out’, it will happen.
When ‘time out’ is over, it’s over. Move on to focus on the positive behaviour your child displays and give praise as soon as possible after time out.
Community Family Care, based at Staunton, Gloucestershire helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviours at home. The work its staff carry out includes peer mentoring and life coaches for young people, and family support programmes.