Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center

How to Use Time Out

What is a time out?
When your child is doing something that is unacceptable, time-out helps stop it and change the situation. Time-out sends him/her away from the trouble spot, and into an isolated area such as a room, chair, quiet corner, hallway, crib, or playpen. It's
best used with children aged 2 years to 12 years.

How should you do time out?
     * Do not give endless warnings and empty threats.
     * Do not shout.
     * Time-out should occur in a non-interesting yet safe place. Your child should not be allowed to watch television or to be interacting with other people      when in time out, including YOU!  
      * Send your child to the time-out chair or room. If he/she doesn't go there immediately, lead him/her by the hand or carry him/her.
      * When you're putting your child in time-out, briefly explain what he/she has done so he/she can connect the behavior with the time-out. A simple phrase such as “No hitting” is enough. Do not lecture and do not spank. Time-out is not the time for teaching or preaching.
      * Do not negotiate with a child in time-out. Completely ignore him/her, even if he shouts, bangs or apologizes.
      * When time-out is over, it is over. Create a fresh start by offering a new activity. Don’t discuss the unwanted behavior, just move on.

How long should time-out last?
Time-out should last 1 minute for each year of your child's age.
You can use a kitchen timer. Make sure you put it where your child can see and hear it. If he/she leaves time-out, put him/her back quickly and reset the timer. This teaches her that you mean what you say.

What about other children?
If your other children touch the timer, or tease their brother or sister in time-out, they should be also placed in time-out.

How does time-out end?
Make it clear that you are in control of when time-out ends. Go to your child's corner and say, "Time-out is over.”

When time-out is over, it's over. If your child repeats the behavior that led to the time-out in the first place, repeat the whole process. If used properly, time-out will eventually work. Remember, your child should know that time-out is directed toward the misbehavior, not him.


If Time-Out “Doesn’t Work”

Check for these mistakes

Mistake #1 – Is your child getting enough “time-in ?” Aim for 10 minutes of positive attention for each child, each day. Write it on the calendar if you have to.


Mistake #2 - Talking or arguing with a child after placing him in time out.

Correct Way- Ignore your child during time –out.


Mistake #3 – Talking or arguing with a child before placing him in time-out.

Correct Way- Use no more than 10 words and 10 seconds in getting your child to time-out.

“Hitting hurts. We don’t hit. ”


Mistake #4 - Using a child’s bedroom or an interesting place for time-out with older children.

Correct Way – Use the bathroom or another boring place for time-out with older children


Mistake #5 – Keep track of the time yourself.

Correct Way – Use a portable timer that can ring – and place it out of reach, but within hearing of your child.


Mistake #6 – Making a child apologize or promise to be good after he leaves time-out.

Correct Way – Model apologizing in your life. DON’T FORCE A CHILD TO APOLOLOGIZE IF THE CHILD IS NOT SORRY.


Mistake #7 – Threatening to use time-out instead of using it.

Correct Way – Actually use time-out each time the target behavior occurs. Don’t just threaten to use it. One request, then child should move. Take child with you in silence.


Mistake # 8 – Using very long, very short, or different periods of time for time-out.

Correct Way – Time-out lasts one minute for each year of age.


Mistake #9 -  Using TIME-OUT too much! Your child can get used to it.

Correct Way – Start with aggression, violence, or danger. Pick a few behaviors. Time out should happen 2-10 time/week. If your child goes to time-out many times/day, you are using it too much. Focus on the most troublesome behaviors first.