Time Out for Kids

How to Discipline Children

Child sitting in corner for time out

Learn the best instructions on using time out for kids, after child aggression occurs, which can be used as a home or preschool discipline for young children. Dealing with a child behavior problem can be frustrating, but it doesn’t always have to be. The most important part about using this technique is remaining consistent and always following through. Simply follow the steps below every time the behavior is displayed. 

I like to always mention, prior to doing time out, it is also important to make sure behavioral problems are not due to other reasons, such as lack of sleep or medication side effects. Reading my free eBook is a great way to learn what may be an underlying cause for meltdowns and other undesirable behavior. Once you have ruled out any of these possibilities, time outs for kids become much easier!

Many parents may attempt to do time out for kids and after the child puts up even a small fight, they give up. However, kids are going to put up a fight no matter what consequence you choose.

What you have to decide is what not only works best for your child, but what also works best for you. I personally like the Parenting with Love and Logic books, but I know it can be difficult to apply the techniques at times.

For some it is easier to have specific steps to follow when disciplining children and the Parenting with Love and Logic books require more creativity in determining what consequences to give. I still highly recommend reading them to use along with time out for kids, which when all techniques are combined it is likely to substantially help with any behavior problems including following directions and disrespectful behavior.

How to Effectively Do Time Out for Kids:

How to Begin: Start on a day that you are going to be home the entire day and if possible the entire next day. Tell your kids (if 2 and older), that from now on you will be putting them in a time out if they do any of the behaviors you typically have a problem with. Specifically state each behavior (e.g. hitting, kicking, refusing to follow directions, back talking etc.).

Choose a Place to Do Time Out for Kids: Pick a chair in the corner of the room, a mat on the floor, step or some other designated area as your time out spot and show it to your kids. If you have ever watched Supernanny, I think it is a great show to see the effort involved in getting time out to work and the results from doing them consistently. (See below for an example video)

However, I don’t really like calling the time out spot the “naughty chair” or the “naughty step.” I just personally feel it can lead to kids labeling themselves as naughty when you really just want to focus on the behavior that is bad not the child being bad.

Give a Warning: Generally, for mild behaviors such as back talking or refusing to follow directions you may choose to give one warning prior to doing a child time out. Ex. If you talk to me that way again, you will go in time out. Or If you do not stop doing that you will go in time out. For a very serious behavior that seriously harms another person, you may choose to just immediately put the child in time out without a warning.

Put the Child in Time Out: If the child does the behavior again, or does a serious behavior:

  1. Get down at the child’s level.
  2. Make eye contact.
  3. Say, “That is so sad, it looks like you need a time out because you (state specific behavior).”
  4. Put the child in time out for one minute per year old.

I personally really like the audible time timer that lets them see the time passing. It’s especially great if you need to restart the time out because they are not cooperating.

What to Do When they Refuse: When you first try this method, expect them to refuse or to engage in other behaviors as a way to avoid the time out. They might run away, laugh and make silly faces or noises while sitting in the chair. They might hit and kick you on the way to the chair.

Ignore all other behaviors and continue to put the child back on the chair/spot anytime they try to leave. This can take multiple times of placing them in the spot, on Supernanny it can take more than one hour and require more than 50 times of placing kids in one time out. Stay Strong! You CAN do this! It WILL pay off!

Restart the Timer: Every time the child leaves the spot, restart the timer. Simply say, “That is so sad, it looks like I will have to restart the timer.” This may take multiple times of doing this, mainly on the first day, as long as you are consistent.

I also think for older children (5 and up) it is appropriate to restart the timer if they are talking, making silly faces, or noises etc. The goal is to have a time out for kids that requires them to sit appropriately and quietly during the entire time. It’s not really a time out if they seem to be having fun while they are doing it.

Ending Time Out: When the timer goes off, go over to your child and ask them why they were in time out. You may need to facilitate this somewhat. Encourage them to apologize to you and any offended person and/or encourage a child to say, “Would you forgive me?” Then hug.

This gives you the opportunity as a caregiver or parent to say, “Of course I forgive you.” It also teaches a child how to handle a situation in which they did something that requires forgiveness, without necessarily having to say they’re sorry when they may not be.

I have also found that it is great to use time out for kids that have a hard time following directions. Although, if you have kids with other serious behaviors, start with using it for those first and then consider using it to encourage direction following.

We were having a very difficult time with our oldest son and I even admit that I was getting very frustrated. I hated nagging and asking multiple times only to come back and find that he STILL had not gotten dressed like I had asked.

So, we started giving warnings… “If you do not get dressed in the next 5 minutes, you will go in time out.” “If you do not go brush your teeth, you will go in time out.” It took a couple time outs at first, but now he is much better at following directions the first time and on occasion still needs a warning.

We also have tried positive behavior supports to make things as reinforcing as possible for the good days he has that do not require any time outs. For this we use a behavior chart with time out for kids, and give him a star for each good day he has without any time outs. After he has a certain number of stars he earns special activities and toys.