Learning About Time-Outs

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What is a time-out?

Time-out means that you remove your child from a stressful situation for a short period of time. It works best when your child is old enough to understand. This usually begins around 3 years of age.

Time-out is an opportunity for the child to calm down or regain control of his or her behaviour. It works best when children understand why it is being used.

When should you use a time-out?

Time-out works best when your child is doing something he or she knows is not acceptable and won't stop, such as hitting or biting.

Time-out is not effective if it is used too often or if it is used for behaviours that are not within a child's control. For example, time-out is not appropriate for a child who accidentally wets his or her clothes instead of using the toilet.

How do you give a time-out?

Before you start a time-out:

  • Get a small, portable kitchen timer.
  • Select a place in your home for time-out. It needs to be a place without distractions. Do not use a bedroom. Do not choose a dark, scary, or dangerous place. A chair in the hallway or corner of a room may work best.
  • Practice the time-out procedure with your child when he or she is in a good mood. Explain that bad behaviour, such as throwing food or not sharing toys, will result in a time-out.

To give a time-out, follow these steps:

  1. Tell your child why he or she is going to time-out. State only once, "Time-out for having a temper tantrum."
  2. Direct or take your child to the time-out place. If you need to carry your child, hold him or her facing away from you.
  3. Set the timer for the time-out period. The rule of thumb is 1 minute for each year of age, with a maximum of 5 minutes for time-out.
  4. At the end of time-out, say to your child, "Okay, time-out is over." And let your child know in some way that you love him or her, such as a hug.

While your child is in time-out:

  • Stay calm, and do not act angry.
  • Find something to do, such as reading a magazine.
  • Don't talk about your child.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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