How to Effectively Use Time-Out as a Discipline Technique
I never used to be a fan of time-out. It never seemed to work. With my older three we’d do more consequence-based discipline. If they didn’t put their toys away, they didn’t get them for a few days. We also spanked (not in anger) on rare occasions for bigger offenses.
But when we brought two kids home from the foster care system, spanking was not an option. Not only was it not allowed, but it can be damaging on children who’ve faced neglect and abuse.
When our kids first came home I was overwhelmed with all their negative behaviors. Thankfully, with the help of our social worker, both of our kids were soon involved in an AMAZING behavior therapy program. (If you’re in Little Rock, I highly recommend The Child Study Center!)
Okay, the truth is, that when we’d go there . . . I’d spill out all the issues we were having, and the therapist would give tools for how to work on behaviors. Time-out was one of these effective tools.
Time-out is a technique that involves putting a child in a very boring place for a few minutes for unacceptable behaviors. The key here is BORING. You are removing your child from the fun!
There are three behaviors when time-out should be used. Today we are talking about the first one.
When a Time-Out Should be Used
1. When a child does not obey a parent’s direct command. This means you actually have to use a direct command.
Right: “Please pick up your blue car and put it in the bin.”
Wrong: “Why don’t we pick up your toys?”
The more direct and specific the better.
I was BAD about doing this. It seemed kinder to “suggest” compliance. Instead, I discovered the kindest thing is to let your child know exactly what you expect.
Also, make sure you have your child’s attention. NOT when they are watching cartoons. NOT when they are in the midst of play.
Walk over to your child.
Gently touch his shoulder.
Look him in the eyes.
Give a direct command. (Not just give a suggestion.)
“Please pick up your blue car and put it in the bin.”
The direct command should be obeyed within five seconds. There should be no counting, no threats, no explanations.
If your child does not comply, there is a sequence to follow.
“Carter, you have two choices. Either pick up the blue car and put it in the bin . . . or go to time-out.”
At this point the choice is the child’s choice. The child will either choose to obey or choose to not obey. If the child does not obey, then it is time for a time-out!
Over upcoming blogs posts we’ll be talking about other behaviors that warrant a time-out. We’ll also talk about what a time-out looks like, but here is the homework for today:
Give direct commands. Get your child’s attention. Use please. Ask exactly what you want your child to do. Praise your child when the command is complete!
Like me, you may be surprised by how off-the-cuff you are about asking your child to follow commands.
Also, like my therapist told me, if you state a question, then your child can answer with “no.” That is perfectly acceptable . . . because you are ASKING.
“Do you want to pick up your toys and then we’ll go outside?”
An acceptable answer is “no.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Where do you fall short in asking your child to obey?