The Time-Out Tool

It’s common to see a child get frustrated and sometimes lash out. They truly have no desire to misbehave or harm their friends and family; they just haven’t yet learned how to handle unexpected hurdles. Parents need to step in and establish boundaries, as well as guidelines for appropriate behavior.

Why a time-out?

As with every other aspect of parenting, consistency is essential. If it’s a bad idea to push your brother, it’s always a bad idea to push your brother. If certain words are off-limits, they are always off-limits. The time-out is a tool designed to remove your child from the situation and is a break in the action that can reset everyone’s behavior, provided you use it properly. Setting up a system that works in your family allows you to consistently address the behaviors in an established manor, leaving little room for negotiation from your child. In our house, we placed our rarely used play-pen in the dining room and labeled it as “the penalty box”. Identified behaviors by our toddler resulted in a time-out in an accessible space and provided the system for us to be consistent. The hockey theme made it more palatable! When the kids were older, that same corner became their time-out spot.

Only one warning.

If you opt to use time-outs, don’t allow them to lose their efficacy with repeated warnings. One warning to remind your child that their behavior is unacceptable is enough. If the behavior does not change, use the time-out as promised.

Time-out is time away.

The beauty of time-outs is that they can be used almost anywhere. The idea is to remove the child from the situation, as well as any auxiliary stimulation. You can’t have a time-out in front of the television, or with a handheld game. A time-out is truly a quiet break; our penalty box, a chair in the corner, or even just being strapped into a car seat during a road trip works well. It isn’t a time for discussion, negotiation or debate. It is a time for quiet.

A time-out is finite.

Before your child finds herself in the time-out chair, everyone should know ahead of time just how long the time-out will be. You can use one minute per year, so a five-year-old gets five minutes. You may decide to use their age plus one minute. Regardless of what you choose, be consistent.

Be prepared for push-back.

Not every child in this practice, or anywhere else, has opted to sit quietly for the duration of their time-out. Some scream and cry and throw tantrums. Some will try and talk their way out of the chair. Ideally, these behaviors should be ignored. If your older child decides to leave the time-out chair on their own, return them to the chair and explain that the time-out will start over from the beginning.

Time-outs aren’t just for kids.

We all know that parenting can be tough, and we all have days when we are just as frustrated as our children. If the situation has you rattled, and you can’t behave calmly and consistently, do yourself and your child a favor. Take your own time-out first. A few minutes to gather your thoughts and take a couple deep breaths can work wonders. Allow yourself that small grace before you impose a time-out on your child.

Now what?

Once the time-out is over, everyone should feel as though the slate has been wiped clean. The time-out will count as time served and life can go back to normal without any further airing of grievances. It’s over.

I know that some days the parenting challenges come one after the other, with hardly a breath in between. Keep the time-out in your back pocket as needed to reset the clock and get everyone back on the same page. If you have any further concerns, feel free to give us a call. We are always happy to help.

About the Author:
Dr. Andy Bauer is one of the founding doctors of Greenwood Pediatrics. A Colorado native, Dr. Bauer is a Fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics and a graduate of St. Louis University. He completed his pediatric training at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and The Children’s Hospital, and is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics. More importantly, Dr. Andy has been a welcome partner to many families in the area throughout their children's lives.

Posted: 10/12/2017 11:20:49 AM by Deb Braun | with 0 comments
Filed under: behavior, child, consistency, consistent, one, Time-out, warning

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