How successful is Time Out?

Lydia - posted on 03/01/2012 ( 38 moms have responded )

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I was reading a bit about time out and found it a pretty common method used in English speaking countries, but very controversial for example in Germany, where it seems to be officially NOT recommended from pediatricians etc.



One of the arguments against time out is simply that they are against the aspect of isolation of the child... another point they made that it might actually teach the child "it's OK to behave bad, I just have to sit on the chair later for a while".

I don't think that these are really strong arguments against time out, because with any punishment or discipline the child might get the idea of "oh whatever I want to hit my brother, so I just do it and take the punishment for it..."

I actually like the thought of isolating the child (=taking it out of the situation where bad behavior occurred) to give him a chance to calm down and think of the behavior. When the German experts wrote about it, it sounded so bad "isolating the child" like you put him away in a closet for hours, but really come on it's just a few minutes in a quiet corner and than you follow up with him and talk about the issue.



I don't have any personal experience with time out yet. But I would like to know if and how you in your family use it (how long, where, what you do to follow up or if bad behavior is repeated), in which situations you found it most effective and helpful and in which situations it seemed useless?

Did anybody have a child where time out just upset the child more and was totally ineffective?

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Karen - posted on 03/01/2012

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It is positive parenting but on a no voice scale. It provides attention to the child without attending to the child. The children know because you noticed them. It is love transferred from you to each child. Just don't make eye contact or talk because you are not wanting them to change behaviors. Start with every 15 minutes and work up by 5 minute increments. After a while, you'll have an hour to yourself with peace among your children.



As to diffusing situations, I do the everybody or nobody rule. If one kid is in trouble, so are the rest, and everybody is separated. Sometimes a child just needs some time alone.

[deleted account]

I think any punishment is not beneficial to a child. When used properly, time outs are not punishments, they are cool down times to learn self control.

Karen - posted on 03/01/2012

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The better method is Time In. Walk through where your children are playing and, without comment, just touch them when they are playing well together, being quiet, attending to behaving well. I speak from years of experience, including with two children who were diagnosed with ADHD. Now I'm a grandmother raising grandchildren. Time in works like a miracle, even with very active children, and it takes so much less energy with highly effective and positive results.

S. - posted on 03/01/2012

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My oldest now 12 never liked to be in trouble so simply counting to 3 mostly worked for her when she was little, my middle child now 4 was a nightmare with any punishment and most made her worst I found time outs worked best for her she has a terrible temper and having a few minuets to calm down and reflect on what she was doing worked for her and me! also you can also find a time out step/ corner/ chair anywhere (even whilst shopping!!) and anyone babysitting can use this too, to be honest she docent need it much now, the warnings work on there own now. I like time outs and think there very effective when done right!

I live in the Uk and alot of nurserys and childminders use time outs, I do know that offsted have told them that the child can not be isolating a child (ie the chair ect has to be in the area were the other children are) and it is still a very good working method for them

Sal - posted on 03/01/2012

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i do use timeouts and have done for a while, i give a verbal warning when i start to notice fighting etc that if the behaviour continues there will be time out then i give a count to 3 to stop on 3 if the behaviour hasnt stopped time out for a minuite per year of age so 5 & 4 mins.... then make them appologise for what ever it was that landed them in time out, the kids arent allowed to talk during timeout, it does seem to work but my hubby tries to do it gets tooo cross then makes them sit for too long and engages in conversation about why he's mad, just prolongs the whole saga.....

i feel it works for two main reasons, it breaks the behaviour and like you said removes them from the situation,

and my kids respond well as i have discovered esp with miss 5 it is almost always an attntion seeking behaviour that she gets in trouble for so getting no payoff (my attention) it takes the motivation outof bad behaviour

one other reason it works is consistancy, at home there is the same action and follow through from me each time but also timeout is a common form of dicipline used in our play groups preschools and other friends houses so consistancy in our community....

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Krystal - posted on 03/06/2012

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It depends on the child. I have a 7-year old boy, 3-year old twins (boy & girl) and a 12-moth old girl. The 7-year old does not like being isolated so sending him to his room is a good punishment or calming technique. Usually 15 minutes or until he calms down. Same for the 3-year old boy twin. However, his time-out spot is on the fireplace in the living room. Usually 5 minutes or until he calms down. His twin sister does not respond to time outs and we actually have to spank her or threaten to do so since she is so stubborn. As you said above, we talk to them about the inappropriate behavior or tantrum after the time out.

Justine - posted on 03/04/2012

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I use time out with my twins - when things get out of hand they literally need 'time out' - time away from the situation to calm down - but this is always followed through with talking quiety about whatever the incident was that resulted in time out, why mummy was cross and an apology (not just 'sorry' but 'sorry for ...' so that they acknowledge what they did that resulted in time out) - then a cuddle and return to play or eating or whatever they were doing before. I think time-out is also good for mums - it's time-out for EVERYONE to calm down, and allows us to deal more rationally with the problem than just shouting.



I'd be interested to know what the German pediatricians recommend instead though?

Michele - posted on 03/04/2012

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We had always used "Time out" along with 1..2..3..Magic.

It works really well with our daughter. You have to read the book first. If you skip any steps it doesnt work as well.



There is also a TV show I like watching. Super Nanny. She uses the "Naughty Chair" She shows parents how it works over and over again. Ive even seen where she took the naughty chair away (the child was throwing it), but the child still had to sit where it used to be located.



At the daycare, where I work, its now called "Time Away". But we have to give them a small activity. (To me, it defeates the purpose of a discliplinary action. A real "Time Out" (I miss it)

Clair - posted on 03/04/2012

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Hi well i have 3 children and my first i felt i could not control at all he did not understand what was happening or anything when he was naughty i ended up having to put my hand over his and slap my hand but he thought he got a slap i also had to phyisclly put him on the bottom stair. it turns out now his 14 nearly 15 and he has now been diagnosed with dyspraxia, slight autisum and A.D.D so this explains how he didnt understand time out. How ever on a brighter note my daughter understood very well and so did my youngest son i put them on the bottom stair and they sat there for 1 min to their age so if they are 2 yrs old they stayed there for 2 mins (that is their attention span ) however now they are 6, 12 and 14yrs i have a much bigger battle so i take tv, playstation, computer time away from them now and if they want that time back then they have to earn it by helping round the house ie my eldest empty's my dishwasher my daughter hovers and my youngest helps with the washing. Its also teaching them to be independant and so they dont rely on me for everything. hope this helps you decide how you feel in bringing up your children. i think its what you feel comfortable with . its like my children have had tv/freeveiw/videoplayers and dvd player in their bedroom since they were 2 yrs old so they went to bed at 7o clock they watched some tv it just ment that me and my husbond had our time with out a battle getting them to bed and they understood that at a certain time everything went off and they went to sleep no problem.

Monica - posted on 03/03/2012

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We used time outs. We would let our son take his teddy bear with him, and he'd sometimes "talk it out" with him. Didn't need touse it often as he was prettyy well behaved, (didn't have much terrible twos with him).

When he was older, the occasional grounding, as in go to your room and no playing with your friends htis evening, worked well, only had to do that two or three times.

Now heading into the teenage years, we'll see what happens next.

Andrea - posted on 03/03/2012

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Hi Lydia time out work best at young age. I started when my daughter was 22 mths old, but it's was tough the 1st time I use it. It took about 2hrs to do a 3mins time out. Cuz she kept walking off & lots of crying. I start by warning her behavior was not exceptable and must stop by the time I count to 3. When she didn't I put her in a square. It's just a phrase I use. It just means a spot I pick for her to stand for 3mins. And I had to keep putting her back to her spot till she did the full 3mins without leaving her spot or crying. I was with her the whole time. But when it was all set & done. I rarely had to use it anymore. Whenever she starts to get naughty, I just say "Do you want me to start counting?" it usaully works. Cuz she knows I mean business. She will stop immidiately. But now that she's 8yrs old it doesn't work as well. But it did work like a charm for about 6yrs.

Angela - posted on 03/03/2012

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what a great question :D, we use time-out for the 2yr (and 3 months) year old, the 15 month old isnt old enough yet, I started when I saw my 2 yr olds look of 'defiance' - when she knew what she was doing was wrong, I only use it maybe once every one to two weeks and only for serious offences (like hitting her brother) after a warning, so far it seems to be working well and often the threat of time-out is enough to stop the behaviour. we dont completely isolate because she sits in the corner and gets to see what attention/fun she is missing out on for two minutes then we talk and have a cuddle and the issue is over, fingers crossed it continues to work! - in case it stops working, do others have different forms of discipline they use that works well? - we do the standard distraction, talking about the issue and dont use smacking.

Roberta - posted on 03/03/2012

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Hi Lydia:

I am now a grandma but I had three sons. One of the things you did not mention in your note or some of your readers, is how old their kids are. That makes a big difference in how time out is handled.



When I decided to send my children to their rooms, they were older. Each child is different in how they respond to this as well. My oldest son Greg didn't mind going to his room, so it really wasn't a punishment. I honestly used it more as a punishment most times. Greg usually ended up in his room however because he was fighting with his brothers. Greg needed that time out to chill out. He did. To this day and he is almost 30, Greg needs time to himself and I don't think that is a bad thing. It is something he developed as a child. It also gave him time to think and we often had a chat after about why he was sent there.



My other two kids, hated going to their rooms and they knew what kind of behaviour would send them there, so they tried there best to avoid that behaviour, but no one is perfect right? We all make mistakes and that is how are kids learn too. One time my youngest lied to me, which was one of his biggest issues, and I sent him to his room with a piece of paper and told him I wanted him to write down what he did and why it was wrong? So the age really does play a big part of how you handle time out's.



I have a feeling most parents use time outs as a punishment whether it should be or not. What I think is the most important aspect is making sure that after that time out, you communicate with your child to see if they understood why they were sent there in the first place and to try and see if the child can come up with different ways to handle situations. A one year old child or even two won't be able to verbalize this but you can explain when they have had that time to calm down.

Jenni - posted on 03/03/2012

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Julianne, well neither you or I believe in punishments. ;) So I would say the issue was with the punishment. Instead of addressing appropriate conflict resolution. I don't banish my children to their room. I suggest that they play a quiet activity apart. Just for a few minutes until they calm down.



Like if Kira and Ben are at it and have lost control (it's no longer just talking it out). I ask Kira if she wants to play with a fav toy in her room and get a break from the action. I keep Ben busy in another room or vice versa. Morgan, can go play with whomever she chooses. When they mellow out and wish to play together again, I ask how they could have handled the situation to make it fair. Remind them to talk it out and if they get too mad to walk away and take a break.

[deleted account]

I use it sometimes but I only find it effective when we are at home and he's gotten himself worked up about something he can't have or do. Otherwise it doesn't seem to work very well. In public I find it completely useless because he will find something fun to do in his time out.

Pamela - posted on 03/02/2012

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It seems that you may have a misunderstanding of how to effectively use time out.



Time out is a time for the child to consider their actions and how they affect others. That's all that it is for. If a parent is simply telling the child to go sit and be still then that is NOT time out...it is a punishment.



Effective time out is when you instruct the child about what has just happened and the consequences it caused to others. You then ask the child to consider what he or she has done and to think about a different way to handle the situation.



You then give the child a minute or two to think about it and then come back to the child and ask for their solution to the problem. If the child has not come up with their own solution you aid the child to do so. That is an EFFECTIVE TIME OUT!



If the child continues in the behavior you repeat the time out process. If the behavior continues (which doesn't usually happen) then you decide on a way to effect change in the behavior...that means taking away a privilege, etc.



Most children are willing to think about and correct their behaviors when it is explained to them what their behaviors have caused. As a teacher I have only run into a few "hard" cases where children resist this method and those children usually have other issues that accompany the misbehavior that caused the problem in the first place.

Joanne - posted on 03/02/2012

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I think time out only works with effective parenting. I never had to use time out with my daughter becasue whenever she did something bad she'd go to her room and I'd talk to her after a few minutes and made sure we talked about what she did wrong and why and i made her repeat back to me what i just told her and how to act next time it happened.

My sister uses time out with her son because he is a hitter with everyone, kid or adult. she would put him in time out, but after 15 seconds of him crying would let him off and cuddle with him and told him not to cry and it's ok which taught him nothing. If you talk to your kid about what they did wrong and that they understand why it was wrong then tiem out works otherwise it's a waste of tiem and emotionally draining.

Jolyne - posted on 03/02/2012

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Our youngest twin grand children are boy girl twins at age of 2. They are both more upset by the timeout thing and really get emotional. I would like to ask what suggestions people have for this problem

Alexandra - posted on 03/02/2012

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we do time outs. It is supposed to be one minute per child's life - your 3 year old should be in time out for 3 minutes.

This is always going to be a controversy situation. No matter when or where or by whom.

Time out is good, FOR US, because it gives our child a chance to think about what he did, even if he does not do it all the time. Also it gives us, the parents, a few minutes to calm ourselves down or the child that was pushed down.

Time out is not isolation for a long time, and NEVER in a closet. That is not time out, that is something else. It should be in a corner somewhere where you are, or in the next room. Time out is not a severe punishment and should not be taken as such.

Notice: this is all my opinion, and my hubby's opinion. If somebody here does not agree, that's ok. I figured I would just reply to you to give you my opinion.

Joycelyn - posted on 03/02/2012

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Instead of putting my 4 yr old on time out, I will put his favorite toy on time out. He will be equally upset and anxious and this takes out the "isolation" effect

Barbara - posted on 03/02/2012

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It never worked for my because my son wouldn't stay there. He would go and as soon as I turned my back, he would get up and continue on his way.

Laura - posted on 03/02/2012

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I think you need to find an effective punishment for you child. And the same method might not work for all your children. When my son was old enough to start being displined, we tried spanking, but he just didn't care. Then we tried time outs and we found them to be much more effective.

We do 1 minute per age, he's 3 so he sits for 3 minutes. He sits on the floor wherever we are and needs to fold his hands (he started playing with his fingers and stuff like that, hence the folding hands).

We don't use a specific chair, I think they learn that chair and if you're at Grandma's house or out in public and his chair isn't there then they feel they can act out.

After his time is up, he must look the person he wronged in the eyes (to express sincerity) and apologize for hitting, not listening or whatever he did wrong.

We also give him warnings and count to 3. If we get to 3 there will be a time out, no exceptions. Consistency is key. I rarely even get to 2 now.

I hope this helps.

[deleted account]

we used time outs for our 1yo daughter. she went through a phase where she threw fits if she didn't get exactly what she wanted. if she threw a fit, my husband (who is her everything, he's her favorite parent ever lol) would put her in the crib and tell her that when she calmed down she could come back out to play. (this was a couple months ago, btw.) after a few minutes she would get over whatever she was upset about and he'd bring her back out to play and she would be fine. now if we tell her no she usually just accepts it. we explain why we say no, such as the action will hurt her or something to that effect. she is extremely intuitive and listens pretty well. she hasn't thrown a fit around me in a long time. i don't know about my husband, since he's the one with her during the day when she's awake more.

Ashley - posted on 03/02/2012

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I believe they work. It's to the chair, then to the room . I teach her that her behavior is unaccepted in this house or anywhere. Following through is,where most parents fall short. I explain what she has done wrong and how to correct the behavior. Eventually she gets tiresome of the process and consequencethat follows.each parent child relationship is different. Do what works for you, just remember to follow through

[deleted account]

Jenni, If more than one child is involved in the situation then yes, they all need to be taught what they are doing wrong and not single out one as the culprit. When I got punished, usually I wasn't even involved in the situation. I was a very quiet and reserved child, usually in my room. They would be fighting somewhere else in the house, yet i would get grounded or whatever punishment they got too.

Katy - posted on 03/02/2012

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Get the Love and Logic parenting book. We use the 1-2-3 method and if the behavior doesn't stop then we use a time out. Even our 18 month old understands the counting and will usually stop what she is doing. We have found it very effective with both our girls.

Sally - posted on 03/02/2012

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It depends on the child. Some children learn best from time outs, some from redirection, some from loss of priveleges, some from natural consequences, some from talking about it, and some even learn behavior best from spanking or any other discipline method that a parent has found works best for their personal child. Not only does what works for you maybe not work for your friends, the same method might not work for two children in the same family.

Most of my friends tried time outs first and their kids worked best with controlled spanking, so I tried that first. No good with either kid. My oldest worked best with redirection until about 4, then time outs worked best for a couple years, and now we use loss of priveleges. Our youngest works best with a combination of loss of priveleges and time outs depending on the naughtiness in question.

Nicole - posted on 03/02/2012

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I agree with most others' comments here, specifically:

Time Outs have to be very consistent. I use a short warning (I don't do a count down, just one warning) and a good follow up to promote understanding about what behavior they need to work on. I like including a hug in the follow up to end things on a good note.

They can also be very helpful to keep the parents a short breather too and keep everyone's emotions in check.

They can be very short and still be effective. I think the 1 min/year of age is a fine rule of thumb, but if my 3 year old calms down in 30 seconds, that's fine too.

They work best for my kids with "attention seeking" behaviors, and learning to control emotions.

I'd use them as just one tool, with other positive behavior enforcing techniques as well (some good ones already mentioned). Occasional positive comments or attention they are not expecting for good behavior works very well!

Time outs are not a fix for everything (tired, hungry, grumpy kid will likely have another breakdown in 5 minutes unless he eats, naps, etc..). Sometimes just going to sleep is better than forcing a drawn out lesson!

Overall they are a useful tool. The style/timing ect.. isn't as important as the consistency.

Dawn - posted on 03/02/2012

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I'm kinda liking this time out thing. My son will turn 3 in June and he is into everything and anything and occasionally will get out of hand, so I just send him to his bed for 2 minutes (will be three minutes when he turns three) and after he sits there for that period of time I will come in and tell him what he did wrong and then let him get up. It seems to be working and I like it better than spanking him.

Catherine - posted on 03/02/2012

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I love Karen's comment about time in. So true! But time out definitely has a place in our family and it works wonders for cooling off. I highly recommend Diane Levy's book "Time out for Tots, teens and anyone in between" from New Zealand. It all depends how consistent you are with your child. I try to be very and usually only have to give my daughter a warning to stop her behaviour. She KNOWS I will follow through if I need to so usually I don't need to. I started from the time she gave me "the look" and knew what she was doing was wrong, but she was testing me and have never changed what I've done from then on in. Also works brilliantly when out and about.

Angela - posted on 03/02/2012

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First, I did not use time out until my children were at least 2 but I din't really have to until they were 3. I used distraction when I saw there might be a situation where they were going to get in trouble. The other thought is that they are not yet sure what is right and what is wrong so until they really mean to behave badly I did not punish them except to explain why what they did was wrong.



Secondly, both of my children have ADHD. The ONLY thing that seemed to work for them was 1-2-3 Method. There is a great book and I follow this still, if necessary, although my children are 9 and 13. I now use this technique if they claim no one was responsible for what was done and everyone does time out on the stairs, one on the first step one on the last. But my children are taking medication and it has improved our home life significantly.



I put my children on the stairs, away from everything but close enough that I could see what they were doing and they could see us and what they were missing out on. One minute per year.The method is based on giving the child time to decide to change their behavior on their own. One-no talking or explaining, two, no talking or explaining, three-they go to time out. In the beginning you must explain what you are going to do before and then you have to be ademant about using the method.You can also start with "you are in time out because you..." then no talking from you. Do not let them manipulate you. You do not talk to them until they have completed the time out. Putting a timer on seems to work very well-they can see how much time has passed and how much longer they have left. If they continue to make noise, talk back, or play during time out, you need to explain-in the beginning-that their time out will start over until they are quiet. You will see that if you are using the method religiously, after counting, usually by 2, the behavior has stopped. If three hits and you put them in time out you explain why they are their, start the timer and walk away-even if they yell or cry. If they get up, get them quietly and put them back in time out-in the same place every time. In the beginning this can take an hour or more if they are strong willed like mine were. It will quickly get easier if you are using the method. When you finally approach them after the timer has gone off-you need to ask them what they did that got them into time out. In the beginning if they do not know, explain, and ask for an appology (a hug is nice and helps them feel that you are not mad). Then they are ready to continue on playing, etc. This seems to be the only thing that works for children with 'issues' as well. Good luck.

Jenni - posted on 03/02/2012

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Julianne, I think the problem with singling out one child is that it breeds resentment and competition among siblings. I was the one who was always in trouble when my sister and I argued. I was the one who usually reacted negatively in a disagreement. My sister was younger and milder. It only made me feel like my parents loved her more because she was a "good kid" which fed my resentment for her.



That said; I don't believe in getting them all in "trouble". I do believe in separating my children. And then using methods to teach them proper conflict resolution. Addressing all children. Encouraging them to talk out a disagreement and problem solve to find a way of playing everyone is content with. Without resorting to name calling, yelling, hitting etc.



Once I started using this method things have gotten so much calmer in my house. I didn't realize before that the way I was handling it at first was actually causing more divide between siblings and fueling future fights. It's so awesome to over hear my children solving their own disputes and offering "fair" suggestions to solve their own conflicts.



I encourage them to take time apart if I can tell they need a break from one another. Sometimes the younger ones tend to smoother the older ones and all they need is have a bit of alone time from one another. My SD will often announce now when she needs a break from my son and will go and play quietly in her room.

[deleted account]

I hated that my mother did the everybody or nobody rule. I would always get in trouble because of my siblings idiocy. It wasn't fair, I was a really good kid and it seemed like I was always in trouble for others downfalls. I think this is part of the reason when I became a teen I completely rebelled against my mother and gave her a really hard time. She punished me for nothing, so i was giving her a reason to punish

S. - posted on 03/01/2012

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Karen I'm not sure I understand this method and would like to know more please, is it on the line's of posative parenting? Are you touching them as to say well done for playing nice? How do they know why your touching them and what it means? How dose it defuse situations? I have never heard of it before but I'm always willing to try new things and I'm a big beliver of possitive parenting

Sherri - posted on 03/01/2012

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It worked amazingly well for my family. My kids and daycare kids respond very well to it.



No timeout did not upset my kids more and no it was not ineffective. They were rarely if ever in time out for the same offense twice.

Jenni - posted on 03/01/2012

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I do believe it's ineffective when used improperly. ie: as a punishment. I believe in most cases punishments are ineffective at teaching a child why a behaviour is right or wrong or how to conduct themselves appropriately in the future. So my issue isn't with timeouts themselves, which can be very useful... but when it is used as a punishment.



I believe timeouts should only be used with specific behaviours. Negative reactions to strong emotions. Timeouts should be seen as an opportunity to teach the child how to calm themselves down appropriately instead of reacting negatively to frustration/anger.



I think it's more effective to sit with your child during a timeout in the beginning of using them. While with your child, teach them some appropriate outlets to vent their frustration... ex: squeezing a stuffed animal, counting to ten, deep breathing, jumping jacks. Followed up by a short discussion of the situation and how to solve it once they are calm. Later start encouraging your child to take them unassisted but of course, be there for them if they need your help.



The goal is to teach your child to walk away and take a moment to collect themselves and then return to solve the issue once they are calm. This can be achieved by showing them appropriate outlets to vent their anger as well as modelling your own timeouts when you are angry, upset.

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