Timeouts are one of the most popular disciplinary tools for parents. When used correctly, timeouts can let children learn when their behavior is unacceptable. Implementing timeouts effectively and consistently can help children understand what behaviors are not appropriate, which allows for more positive interactions. Research suggests that affection and positive feedback, combined with consistent consequences for negative behaviors is most effective for children.
To make timeouts more effective, follow these simple tips:
1. Give advanced warning: This helps children understand which behaviors produce which consequences
2. Use a pre-determined place: Designate a special chair or a place on a staircase, so the child can know what to expect
3. Respond quickly: Make sure the timeout is immediate, and that you state why the child is going to timeout. This helps the child recognize the link between his/her actions and consequences
4. Keep it brief: Research shows that timeout times should be equivalent to one minute per year of age
5. Keep it calm: Require the child to be completely quiet for 5 seconds before ending the timeout. This helps children understand that crying and screaming during a time out will not be accepted
6. Pay no attention: Withdraw your attention during the timeout. The child will learn that misbehaving is not the way to get what they want
7. Be consistent: Ensure that timeouts occur every single time the specific negative target behavior occurs. If it is not consistent, children may think that he or she might be able to get away with their behaviors
8. No rewarding stimuli: Children should have no access to TV, electronics, toys, or games while in timeout
Once the timeout is over, turn the attention back to whatever the child was doing right before the timeout, so that you can praise them for any positive behavior. Praise for positive behavior assures the child that although she/he had to go to timeout for a bad behavior, he or she is also capable of behaving positively in a way that makes you proud and affectionate towards them.
Author: Alana Summers, M.A.