Experts have shared how to appropriately use “time out” to discipline children. The method has received a bad reputation, but psychiatrists and psychologists are encouraging its proper use. Evidence has shown that when used properly, time out can be extremely effective for kids aged two to eight.
Time out follows a simple theory: a child gets no parental attention because of something they’ve done. At a young age, a parent’s attention is everything to a child, so being without it is almost like torture. Usually, bad behaviour gets more attention; we often repeatedly ask the child to “stop that” or “don’t do that,” and sometimes this can be misinterpreted as the right way to get attention. Using time out to punish bad behaviour may be an effective tool if used correctly.
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The key to using time out well is to be calm, clear, and consistent. Instead of simply angrily telling a child to go to time out, it will be more useful if you give them a warning. For example, you can tell them that if they don’t put away their toys, then they’ll get time out. It’s important to wait for a response from the child, and if you don’t get one, then you should keep repeating the statement until they understand.
A child can start to scream and wail in protest, but it’s essential to stay calm as you bring them to the time out spot. This is also to make sure you don’t use time out as an empty threat; physically bringing them to the spot will help keep your actions consistent so your child gets the message. Keeping the time in the spot short is also more effective than leaving them there for 20 minutes. Three to five minutes should be enough for them to reflect on their actions.
Time out shouldn’t be used as the go-to parenting strategy because if it is, it loses its effectivity. When overused, the child may not truly understand what’s going on with their feelings because they are left alone to deal with them. Even when used, a conversation after the fact should still happen. In order to improve and learn, the child needs to know what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and how they can avoid doing it again. This can’t be achieved all by themselves.