Time out is a very good form of child discipline if used correctly. It can be used for children from the age of about three to fourteen. Before the age of three, the child is too young to understand the significance and after the age of fourteen, the teenager is usually noncompliant as there are other forms of discipline that are more effective and appropriate.
What is time out?
- It is a form of child management which acts as a “circuit-breaker” to stop your child from behaving in an undesirable manner.
- It gives your child and other parties involved, such as other children or yourself, a break from the situation which can potentially become more difficult or volatile.
- It is not a form of punishment designed to inflict “pain” on your child. So, it is alright if your child engage in some play activities during time out.
Preparing the time out room
The room should have a door that closes but does not lock from the inside. It should be free of any items or objects that might prove dangerous for an out of control child who may behave impulsively. The room may contain toys or books which the child can use for distraction or self-soothing. If there is insufficient living space, a time out spot may be used in place of a room. The spot, however, must be away from the activities of the other family members so that your child does not get distracted by them.
Some general rules for time out
- Time out is set at five minutes for children aged five and under, ten minutes for those from the ages of six to ten, and fifteen minutes for those between eleven and fourteen years old.
- Inform your child that you will give a cue before the execution of time out. For example: “John, it is time out!”, or “Jane, go to time out room!”
- Expect your child to go to the time out room within one minute of you giving the cue for time out.
- Your child is not supposed to communicate with anyone during time out. Your child may do nothing or read and play quietly in the time out room.
- When your child complies with time out, you may compliment your child by saying “I am very happy that you have behaved properly when you obey time out quietly without any fuss.”
- If your child does not comply with time out by delaying or coming out too soon from the time out room, add that extra time to the total time out duration. If the total time out duration has tripled because of your child’s noncompliant behaviour, consider time out a failure for that occasion. Do not persist any longer. Instead, use another form of discipline.
- If your child does not comply with time out at all, do not fight with your child or use physical force on your child. Use another form of discipline such as withdrawal of privileges or grounding. For example, the child has to forego the party that the child is looking forward to attend or to forfeit watching a favourite television program.
- If your child causes any property damage during time out, your child has to pay for the cost of repair from your child’s own saving or pocket money. If you decide to repair the damage yourself, then your child has to help you. If your child is unable to pay for the damage, then your child has to do chores around the house, the monetary value of which is equivalent to the damage.
Target behaviours for which time out can be used
- Temper tantrum
- Fights between children
- Oppositional behaviour
- Argumentative behaviour and back chatting
- Bullying behaviour
Explaining time out to your child
You need to sit down with your child and explain time out to your child before you use the discipline. Your explanation should cover the followings:
- Why do you use time out?
- What is the significance of going to time out?
- What your child can do during time out?
- What happens if your child obeys or disobeys time out?
- What happens if your child destroys any property during time out?
A final word
Incorporate time out as a form of child management early in the disciplinary life of your child so that your child is accustomed to the idea. It is simple but effective. It is better than nagging and arguing with your child. Through time out, your child can also learn to cultivate self control!