Time Out – Learn a Powerful Method for Handling Extremely Bad Child Behaviour

Nancy B. Alston

If your child is behaving extremely badly, you cannot simply ignore it. You must take action to prevent your child from developing a serious behavioural problem.

This is a last-resort technique, when all else has failed. Before you use this method, you should have tried other ways of stopping the bad behaviour, such as distraction and ignoring.

The method is called “Time Out”, where you simply put your child in a room and ignore it for a few minutes.

There are two steps involved in the Time Out.

Step 1 – Ask your child politely to stop misbehaving.

If the child continues to behave badly, ask a second time, but this time more firmly. This gives the child two chances to change behaviour. If the child actually stops misbehaving, give it praise and love so that it understands that stopping the bad behaviour brings your positive attention.

Step 2 – If your child continues to behave badly, you go on to execute the Time Out.

Escort your child firmly, but with no attention, to a safe place where you can leave it alone for one minute of each year of its life (for example four minutes for a four-year-old), up to a maximum of five minutes.

The safe place can be a chair or the stairs, but if the child refuses to stay put, you may have to put it in a room and shut the door. If you put the child in a room, and the child keeps opening the door, you must hold the handle firmly so the door won’t open and the child is aware that you are there. Do NOT lock the door and leave.

The Time Out is an extreme form of ignoring. During the Time Out, do not talk to the child or give it any attention in any form.

This technique allows everyone to calm down and avoids escalation to even more extreme forms of punishment. It tells your child very powerfully that its behaviour is totally unacceptable.

When the Time Out period is over, you must calmly explain to your child why it was Timed Out and let it go on to play. Then at the first opportunity, give the child praise for good behaviour.

Time Out is a powerful technique, but be careful not to overuse it, as that will reduces its effectiveness. Use distraction or just plain ignoring whenever you can, and reserve Time Out for the extreme case.

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