Strategies for Managing Time-out Sessions

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Time Out Spot

Giving time-out as described in the previous blog post is an effective way to control anti-social behaviour, but if you are just starting to implement the technique, you may run up against some difficulties. This blog post is to help you overcome them, and keep the program going.

One thing that is very important is the warning. You may think that the child should already know that what she is doing is wrong. But actually, since she is caught-up in the heat of the moment, she is only thinking of the situation, and not realising she is behaving badly. That is why the parent, nanny or care-giver must step in quickly and firmly, describe what is unacceptable about the behaviour, and remind her that time-out will be given unless it stops immediately. The warning is a sudden stop-and-think punctuation mark which sometimes jolts the kid out of the behaviour making having a time-out unnecessary.

If you were to immediately grab the child and march her off to the time-out place, she won’t have had a chance to think about what she is doing, and you have not given her a chance to stop it. She will be resentful that you acted so hastily and so harshly, and this may ratchet-up her bad behaviour.


Some parents just starting the the time-out strategy have trouble getting their child to pay attention to the warning. Either the child continues the bad behaviour, or starts crying, or begins an angry tirade in an attempt to explain the injustices he has just suffered. Be careful here, do not start yelling, or name calling, you must do you best to stay in control of your emotions and remain calm, firm and in control. So for example do not scream “Stop it! You bad boy!” He’s not a bad boy, he is behaving badly at this moment, and you must specify what it is he should stop doing so that there is no ambiguity.

Do not give endless threats of time-out. It won’t be long before he works out that if he keeps doing what he’s doing, you’ll just keep threatening and not taking action, and the whole time-out strategy will unravel before it has even begun. Also do not try to intimidate with your body language or your voice. Stay calm, firm and in control. Make eye contact and insist he looks you in the eye when you are talking to him, then explain you are giving him time-out because his behaviour is unacceptable.

The next thing that could go wrong is that the child will not stay in the time-out zone, but runs straight back to the situation he was just in. Again, keep calm, be firm, don’t say anything (you’ve already said all that is necessary) and pick up the child and put him back into his time-out zone. If he runs away again you simply put him back without saying anything, again and again until he get the idea. Don’t forget to thank him when he says he understands what it was he did that was wrong, and that he’s sorry.

So there you have it. An effective way to modify a child’s behaviour without resorting to physical punishment. Good luck in your parenting, nobody said it was going to be easy, but just about everybody says it is the most rewarding, and one of the most important jobs there is.

Do you have any parenting tips? Please do share them in the comment below, even if you disagree!

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