Common Time-Out Mistakes Parents Make

5 Mistakes Parents Make with Time-Out

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When used appropriately, time-out can be a great way to manage behavior problems. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what time-out really is and how it should be used. Here are the five most common mistakes parents make when using time-out:

1. Using Time-Out Too Often

Time-out should be used sparingly. If you put your child in time-out several times a day, it will quickly lose effectiveness. Time-out should be used as a tool – but it shouldn’t be the first line of defense, nor should It be the last resort for misbehavior.

Avoid putting your child in time-out more than one time per day, on average. If your child misbehaves after serving a time-out, consider a different discipline technique. Take away a privilege or use a logical consequence, rather than using another time-out.

2. Giving Attention During Time-Out

It’s common for kids to cry and yell during time-out. It’s also common for them to beg and plead to come out of time-out early. Responding to a child during time-out makes the consequence ineffective.

Time-out should be about a time-out from attention. Responding to kids by yelling back or offering reassurance completely defeats the purpose of time-out. It’s important to ignore any bids for attention during time-out.

3. Using a Fun Place for Time-Out

If you put your child in time-out in his room, and he spends the time playing video games, time-out isn’t exactly a consequence. Kids need to serve time-out in a place that won’t be filled with fun games.

A bathroom, a hallway, or a chair can be a suitable time-out spot. Make sure it’s a safe space where your child won’t get himself into trouble. If you’re giving a time-out in public, find a quiet space where there were be little activity. That may mean you have to leave a public setting to allow your child to serve time-out in a car.

4. Engaging in a Power Struggle

It’s common for kids to refuse to go to time-out. But, every minute you waste engaging in a power struggle is a minute your child gets to delay going to time-out. Don’t nag, beg, or engage in a power struggle over time-out.

Tell your child to go to time-out and wait five seconds. If your child doesn’t go, offer one warning. Use an if…then statement such as, “If you don’t go to time-out, then you’ll lose your electronics for the rest of the day.” Then, leave the choice up to your child. If he doesn’t go into time-out, take away a privilege.

5. Lecturing After Time-Out

Sometimes parents just can’t seem to stop themselves from lecturing a child right after he serves a time-out. But giving a stern lecture as additional consequences isn't helpful. Neither is saying things like, “I hope you learned your lesson!” or “You do know why you went to time-out, right?”

When your child steps out of time-out, allow him to rejoin the family activity. As long as he's calm and able to behave appropriately, there’s no need for further intervention. The point of time-out should be for him to learn how to calm himself down.

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