Time out


“Time out” is a technique used by parents and teachers in response to undesired behaviors among children. It involves removing the child from the environment and activities in which the inappropriate and undesirable behavior occurred and placing him or her in a specific place for a specific amount of time to be quiet and reflect on the behavior.

Time out is an effective disciplinary technique in which no physical punishment is used. Professionals report that avoidance of physical punishment may help prevent children from learning that physical violence or infliction of physical pain is appropriate to achieve their desired results.

Children learn to avoid time out by ceasing the behaviors that have caused previous time outs or those that result in such warnings.


How to Use “Time Out”:

1) Find a place in your home that will be suitable for “time out.” A chair in the hallway or corner is appropriate. It should be a place that is not too closed off, dark, or scary. It should also be a place that has no potential for fun (such as in front of a TV or in a play area). The object of the time out is to bore your child.

2) Get a timer that makes a loud noise, and establish the amount of time to be spent in the time out. It is generally recommended to do one minute per year of age, but no more than 5 minutes.

3) Once your child exhibits bad behavior, give a clear, concrete explanation of what the unacceptable behavior is and tell him or her to stop it. Warn the child of the consequences for not stopping the behavior - sitting in the chair for a time out. Be sure to praise your child if he or she stops the behavior.

4) If the behavior does not stop, tell the child to go to time out. Tell the child why - make sure he or she understands the rules. Only say it once, and do not lose your temper. By yelling and nagging you are giving the child (and the behavior) too much attention. You may guide the child to the time out spot with as much physical force as necessary (even picking the child up and place them in the chair). Never spank or physically hurt your child. If your child will not stay in the chair, hold him or her from behind. Do not speak, as this is giving the child attention.

5) Set the timer. If the child makes noise or misbehave, reset the timer. If the child gets off the time out chair, lead him or her back to the chair and reset the timer. The child must be quiet and well behaved until the timer goes off.

6) After the timer rings, your child may get up and resume activities. Do not hold a grudge - let the issue go. Your child has served his or her time, so there is no need to continue to discuss the misbehavior.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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