Time Out behavior awomenlessordinary.com

Time out: new and improved reflective method

Time out!  Are you having one of those days?  When everything that you say to your kid falls on deaf ears or they decide that they’re going push your boundaries to see what happens?  My son is lovely most of the time, but rest assured that ALL kids have day like this.  It’s how they learn where the boundaries are (and if you’re not careful, if they move).

Positive parenting strategies don’t work in isolation; sometimes kids also need to have some negative feedback when their behaviour is unacceptable to you.  To my mind, this includes but is not limited to violence, repeatedly ignoring you, destruction and hostile actions towards other kids.  My son will be 5 in a few months and my techniques for managing poor behaviour are evolving now that he is older.  More to follow on this, but I thought that I would share with you what makes an effective time out before it fades from my memory:


time out flowchart


What makes this method so effective?

√  Giving your child one chance to adjust their behaviour is ‘fair’ and can sometimes result in them making a change – with no effort from you!  (sometimes, if your kid knows that what they’re doing is wrong, skipping the warning is appropriate)

√  The most powerful aspect of my version of time out is the box in green.  Make them do the thinking and convince you that they understand why their behaviour was unacceptable.  Time out ends when they’ve learned something, not after an arbitrary number of minutes after which you scolded them.  Make your kid active in solving the problem not passive.  Of course, the younger your kid is the more prompting and verbal support this will take.

√  To my mind, the purpose of time out is to remove the immediate issue, to get your kid to calm down and to reflect.  It’s also a time for you to calm down.  Take an extra minute before returning to them if that’s what you need.  As my son has got older, I’ve asked him if he’s ready to talk from the comfort of my sofa whilst enjoying a cup of tea.  At 4, sometimes he will say that he’s not ready to talk yet so I may as well wait in comfort 🙂

Possible pitfalls…

X  Giving too many warnings makes you sound weak and like you don’t mean it.  If you say it, you have to mean it and take action every time.  Yes, every time.

X   If you are not prepared to do a time out in public, your kid will notice and use this information to their advantage!  Once you’ve threatened a public time out, look for a suitable place to do it BEFORE you have to take any action.  Look for somewhere with as little audience as possible and ideally near somewhere that is comfortable for you to wait.  I favour a corner out of sight or facing a wall so that the time out is as boring as possible – if your kid has an interesting view, they may be willing to wait it out longer than usual.

Like some of my bedtime techniques, success here relies on you being boring.  It’s very important that them escaping time out is not turned into a game.  DON’T appear flustered (even though you are!) or engage in any conversation whatsoever.  It’s so much easier to stay silent than to engage in whatever argument your kid is trying to start with you.  There will be a chance for conversation later.

X  If your child is potty training you could consider getting them to go to the toilet as trouble is brewing, so that this is not used as an excuse to disrupt you later.  It’s difficult for you to remain silent and not engage in conversation if you’re genuinely worried that your kid will have an accident.

X  You may need to physically carry your kid to time out from time to time – a good reason to phase it out as your kid gets older!  Only ever pick battles that you know you can win!

X  I like to call it time out or in the corner NOT the naughty step or the naughty chair.  It is their behaviour that is naughty, not the child.  Also, it’s easy to find a corner in any public place – not so easy to find a step or chair!

X  Overuse.  If your only method of getting your kid to behave is time out, consider trying some positive strategies or not rushing in too, and natural consequences of their behaviour (blog post on this to follow).


Never forget:  you’re in charge!


time out behaviour behavior awomanlessordinary.com A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently.  With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *