Recent studies have concluded that giving your child a time-out is the most effective way to discipline your children. Doing so affords the opportunity for the child, as well as yourself, to step back from the situation, and evaluate what has just happened. You will then be able to share with your child that the decision they made was not appropriate under the circumstances, and they will learn from it.

What’s the best way to give a time-out?

Here is how a time-out should work: Share with your child that if they do something wrong that they will first get a verbal warning, and then you will slowly count to three. This will provide the child with an opportunity to stop the incorrect behavior. You can provide a verbal warning at the count of two, for example, “Please stop coloring on the table.” Should you reach counting to three, then your child should know that they will be required to go to a designated time-out place in your home. This should correct their behavior.  At the count of three their time-out will begin.

What makes a good time-out place?

The ideal location for the time-out would be a chair or corner where there are no distractions for them. The time-out place shouldn’t by physically uncomfortable, but it should be a place where they will be very bored and have time to think about their choices. Don’t include games, television, or other entertainment in the time-out place, and don’t send your child to their room.

How long should a time-out last?

Your child can stay in time-out for several minutes. A good rule here is the time-out is equal in minutes to your child's age. For example, a three-year-old should be in time-out for three minutes. At the end of your child's time-out, ask them if they understand why their actions were not acceptable. Don't make this into a debate or lecture, though. If you are consistent with this punishment your child will want to change their behavior in the future to avoid being placed in time-out.

How do time-outs help my child?

Time-outs can help children understand consequences and take ownership for their actions. They may still inquire about whether their behavior is good or not, and they will still test their limits from time to time, but successfully learning from time-outs indicates that as your child gets older, they will be able to stop and count to 10 when they are frustrated, angry, or on the verge of being out of control of their emotions. Time-outs will help your child learn about boundaries.

If you still have questions about discipline, speak to your pediatrician. 

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