When used effectively, timeout can help a child learn to behave appropriately and keep parents from using impulsive discipline techniques, such as spanking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sites three key components for effectively disciplining kids. The first strategy is a supportive learning environment, which makes children feel safe and secure, second is what they term as a “proactive strategy” to teach children desirable behaviors and third is a “reactive strategy” or a strategy for controlling unacceptable behaviors. Timeouts have long been used as a “reactive strategy” for disciplining children and in fact, are one of the most popular discipline strategies of modern times.
Despite its popularity, not everything about timeout as a form of discipline is considered good, and not all parents know which situations call for a timeout or how to implement it effectively. They are not meant to be isolating or add to a child’s distress when they are already upset. Still, when used effectively, timeout can help a child learn to behave appropriately and keep parents from using impulsive discipline techniques such as spanking. So, what are the steps to using timeout effectively? Michigan State University Extension says to consider the following from the AAP:
- Remain calm and do not shout. Be calm, thoughtful and deliberate in your approach to timeout.
- Prepare your child by introducing timeouts early, before 18 months so that they are familiar with it. By 2-years-old, most children will understand what timeout means – a parent imposed break in their undesirable behavior or activity.
- Make it progressive – it’s important to give a child a warning leading up to using timeout. State very clearly to the child what the issue is and let them know that if the behavior does not stop, they will be given a timeout.
- Pick the right spot. Choose a spot that does not have any built-in rewards, such as a room filled with toys and books. Timeout can be used at home or away from home. Parents might have a designated spot, such as a chair in a corner or a step for the timeout spot. While away from home, simply remove the child from the situation by leaving the place where the misbehavior occurred.
- Choose the right time. The desired outcome of a timeout is for the child to emerge in control and display desirable behavior. Most experts agree, timeouts, generally should last one minute for each year of the child’s age.
Used effectively, timeouts can curb a child’s misbehavior. Using the steps outlined above ensures that the technique is used appropriately and can help both the child and the parent.