How to use: When children perform the behavior you want to use timeout for, inform them they will go to timeout for one minute if they do not stop that behavior. If they continue the behavior after about 10 seconds, instruct them to go to timeout. Every five to 10 seconds they do not go, increase the time by one minute increments, up to 10 minutes. Start a timer (on your phone, microwave, etc.) for the specified amount of time once they are in the designated spot ("Preventive Parenting with Love, Encouragement and Limits," Dishion and Patterson).
How to end: While children are in timeout, occasionally glance over at them to make sure they are being compliant (sitting in the spot, not playing), but do not give them any more attention. If they are still making noise or misbehaving, remind them they will need to stay in timeout until they are compliant. Make sure they are compliant for at least two minutes before being allowed to come out of timeout. Once the time is finished, talk briefly with the child about the behavior, remind them why they went to timeout, then get them involved in something positive with you and the rest of the family ("Defiant Children," Barkley).
Ensuring success: Walking children through the routine of how timeout will be and informing them of the specific behaviors they will be put in timeout for during a period when they are not misbehaving can help increase instances of success. When you tell children they need to go to timeout, it is extremely important to do so calmly and without malice. As with many other parenting techniques, continued practice and consistency increases the likelihood of success ("Preventive Parenting with Love, Encouragement and Limits, Dishion and Patterson).
Those who are concerned about the possible negative consequences of using timeout should be comforted to know that Morawska and Sanders found no evidence to suggest negative outcomes. In fact, the authors cited evidence to suggest continued positive outcomes up to three years after parents participated in parenting programs where timeout was one technique taught.
It certainly appears that timeout is in fact still useful.
Michael is a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University. He teaches about marriage and family life in the Lansing community. Contact him for more information at Michael@ActualityFT.com.
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