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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

How to Do a True “Time-Out”

Jul 29, 2015 10:14PM
Many parents believe that they have tried to do “time-outs” with their child, and it simply does not work for them. What they do not realize is that time-out is not just a concept; it is a very strict formula that only works when it is done exactly as instructed. If each step is done perfectly, it is extremely effective. This is a description of the steps to be executed, and some common pitfalls that parents usually fall into.

1. Before a time-out is attempted, there must be a warning. So after a child is told about a behavior that should be stopped, or is told to do something, and does not obey or cooperate, the child is given a warning—either one or preferably two, but you must always use the same number. The warning is given in a matter-of-fact manner, that is, no raised voice, no irritated tone, no threats or complaints—a simple “this is your warning.”

2. If the warning does not produce the desired result, the child is taken to the time-out place. This must be a place with no distractions where the child sits, within your view. The child is told why they are being placed in time-out, again matter-of-factly, with no additional interaction.

3. The timeframe for time-out is one minute per year of age. This must not vary, in other words you do not add or subtract any time for any reason, regardless of the infraction. A timer is placed in view of the child, so s/he can tell how much time is left, and when it is up.

4. During the time-out there is no response to, or interaction with, the child, regardless of what the child says or does. If and when the child gets up or leaves time-out, he is placed back in, and the timer is reset. This means you are silent, with no response whatsoever, other than placing him back in time-out and resetting the timer. This is the hard part—no matter how many times the child leaves time-out, he is simply placed back in, and the timer is reset. You are silent, with no anger shown. Now, this can be very frustrating and time-consuming, as in the beginning the child may attempt this 10, 20, or even 100 times. But it is critical to stay with it, because this is a teaching experience for the child. If you give up at any point, the child will learn to expect this, and all is lost. So make sure you are prepared to go all the way before introducing the “true” time-out process.

5. At the completion of the time-out period, you go over to the child, get at his eye level, and again explain very simply the reason he was placed in time-out. Express love, give a hug, and you are done. There is no additional recrimination or threats for the future.

This is the procedure. It can be done with children aged about 3-10. Of course, this is not the only discipline strategy you will need for good parenting, and it is usually used only at home. It does not apply retroactively, that is, it is not used after getting home for something the child has done earlier. It is also important for other adult caretakers to understand and use this procedure.

Using this time-out procedure is an example the important parenting and discipline principles: Calm, caring, and consistent. Once you employ this technique regularly, you will be relieved by not becoming distressed about conflict over disobedience, or having to be the “bad guy.”

Rhoda Ondov, MS, MFT. Ondov Relationship Coaching, 2 Division St., Suite 15, Somerville. 908-643-6256. [email protected]. See ad on page 13.

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