By Catherine Griffin

Time-outs were developed in the 1960s as a milder consequence and an alternative discipline method to physical punishments which were used in schools or by parents to replace hitting children with rulers, paddles, belts and tree branch switches in an effort to discipline the child for their negative behavior. In order to help make time-outs a more effective alternative style of discipline, please see the following recommendations:

  1. Present a choice.The child can cooperate or advise them that they will lose a privilege, such as watching a movie or playing a game on their tablet. If the child refuses to have a time-out advise them of the consequence and then walk away.
  2. Provide an incentive to comply.For example, you can say, “Your time-out will be for five minutes, but if you start now and are a good listener then it will only be 3 minutes.”
  3. Follow-up and explain after the time-out. The time-out should be administered to help stop the immediate behavior and prevent it from getting worse. The child will typically not use this time to reflect on what they did so it is important for the parent or provider talk to them to discuss appropriate behavior and expectations
  4. Give a Clear Warning.Let the child know that if you do not do something within the next three seconds then they will receive a time-out. 

Alternatives to Time-out

Positive reinforcement is a proactive alternative to time-outs and can often help manage and guide the behavior of a child. The following techniques can be used to help children learn self control.

  1. Provide positive encouragement when the child is behaving at an acceptable level (Example: “I love how you are waiting for your turn on the slide…”)
  2. Redirection. With this technique, the child is re-directed to another activity and given an opportunity to try the behavior again at another time
  3. Use “When.. Then” Statements. This is a statement made in which the child is encourage to accomplish something before going on to something else. For example, “When you finish putting the toys away, then you can go outside.”
  4. Use “If….Then” Statements. This is a statement in which the child is encouraged to make a positive choice: For example, “If you put your toys away, then you can go outside to play.”

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Written by Cathy Griffen.
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