Moms and Dads, does this sound familiar?
Your child just hit his sibling.
You tell him not to do it again and to apologize, but the only word coming out of his mouth is “no” and it’s directed right at you. You repeat yourself, get the same response and on the third attempt, your child responds by hitting his sibling, yet again.
What do you? Yell and tell them to go to timeout, of course, because that’s punishment for his actions and he’ll never do it again. Right?
Well…if only it was that cut and dry.
You see, for every timeout cheerleader, you have a timeout skeptic.
Timeout: Yea or Nay?
The idea of a timeout is to give your child time out or away from the situation that just got them a one-way ticket to that dreaded corner or chair. They are supposed to understand this was a punishment for something wrong. Because they’ll want to avoid timeout again, they won’t do whatever got them there in the first place.
That’s in a perfect world.
What happens far too often is that a child doesn’t get why he was put in timeout, isn’t really doing any deep reflective thinking during the five minutes or so that he’s there, has no remorse, and just does the same thing over and over again. When this happens, mommy and/or daddy often feel like they need a timeout, and rightfully so!
How to Make Timeouts Effective
Besides reserving timeouts for the mother of all bad behaviors, there are other things you can do to make timeouts more effective.
Keep them short. Sometimes kids’ attention spans are short. If you keep your child in timeout too long he may even forget why you put him there in the first place! Anywhere from 3-5 minutes should do the trick.
Talk when it’s over. Ask your child if he knows why he was put in timeout. Explain that while you still love him, you weren’t loving the bad behavior and it won’t be accepted.
Go through with the timeout. This goes for any punishment. If you’re a believer in timeouts and threaten one, follow through. If you’re serious about it, your child may take it more seriously too.
If Your Timeout Tanks…
If you and your child took a ride on the timeout train a few times and each time it got derailed, look at how you handled it.
- Was it a true timeout? That means no toys, loveys, or other distractions allowed.
- Did your child really deserve it? Think about the situation and if you were reacting to his behavior or something else that angered you.
- Is the timeout age appropriate? Timeouts are usually reserved for toddlers or preschoolers. Anyone younger is too small and anyone older may take it as a joke.
If timeouts tank in your house, perhaps you’ll want to try talking to your troublemaker and explaining why what they did was wrong. Ask them if they would want to be treated that way. Again, keep it simple.
Another tactic is to take away an activity or toy they love versus putting them in timeout. Taking something away that has meaning may have more of an impact than standing in the corner and staring at the wall for three minutes. It may also better demonstrate the idea of cause and effect.
Hitting your sister= No favorite doll. Pretty simple concept.
Timeouts are a tough topic because some parents swear by them while others will tell you they’re a waste of time. Find what works for you and your kids. You may discover you’re “team timeout” while your friend will take a pass.
And that’s fine because the goal is the same, to raise good little humans, right?
So, are you “team timeout” or do you take another approach?