Skip to main content

Time-Out Discipline Strategies That Work

Are your current discipline strategies falling short? Here's your go-to guide for effective time-outs.
Mom scolding young boy
By: Rebecca Desfosse

Are your current discipline strategies falling short? Have you tried time-out and it hasn't gone the way you expected? Time-out can be an effective discipline technique when it's performed correctly. Time-out involves placing your child in a boring spot for a short time whenever she doesn't follow the rules. Tim-eout gives a child a break from your attention and some time to think about her choices and the consequences for her actions. Here's how to do it right:

Set the Stage

Setting Timeout Timer

Photo source: Pexels

First, pick a time-out spot. The best time-out spot is the most boring place possible. You can use a chair, a mat, or a stool. You can pick a name for the time-out chair, such as the "quiet chair." Just make sure it's boring and far away from any possible distractions, such as the television or toys. Next, determine the amount of time your child will spend there. A quick and easy rule of thumb is one minute per year of age. For example, a two-year-old would get two minutes of time-out. Use a kitchen alarm or the timer on your phone to set the correct time limit.

Explain the Time Out

Show your child the time-out chair and explain to her that she will go there if she doesn't follow certain rules. Explain that this will help her quiet down and think about her choices. Choose a limited number of rules (think three to five, depending on the age of your child) and be very specific about which behaviors will lead to a time-out. Explain that you will set the timer for a specific time frame and that you will come get her when time-out is over.

Give a Warning

When your child begins to disobey one of the rules you discussed, give her a warning. For example, "Margot, remember our rule about sharing. If you don't share, you'll have to go in time-out." If she continues disobeying, place her directly in the time-out chair. Don't delay. Waiting until you finish a task or until she disobeys again can send mixed messages.

Explain the Rules

When you place your child in the time-out chair, don't give a long lecture about why she's there. Just briefly say, "You didn't listen to the rule about sharing, so now you're in the time-out chair for four minutes." Then, walk away. If she gets up, put her back in the chair and inform her that the time restarts each time she gets up. Keep your cool and stay firm.

Say "I Love You"

Little Girl Sitting with Puppy

Photo source: Pexels

When the time-out is over, don't forget to tell your child that you love him or her. Give her a hug and let her know that her punishment is over. Don't try other discipline strategies at the same time, such as taking away her toys, even if her infraction was a bad one. Once she "served her time," she's back to square one until she disobeys again.

The key to time-outs is staying consistent. Each time your child breaks one of the rules you discussed, she goes into time-out with no exceptions. Before long, you'll notice that she's spending less and less time in the chair and more time following the rules.

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.