You’re in a supermarket and your kids get into trouble. You warn them, “If you don’t stop you’re going to get a “time-out” when we get home.” They don’t get better so when you get home you enforce a “time-out”. You direct them to respective chairs where they sit. They say they are hungry. You tell them, “You’ll have to wait until “time-out” is over.” You ask them what they want for lunch. After you finish making their lunch you say their “time-out” is over and they may come to eat. Was the “time-out” effective? Did they learn anything? Did they feel anything? What is a “time-out” and how do you give one to your child?
A “time-out” is a period of isolation you purposely give to your child where they do not get any attention from you and they don’t control you. It doesn’t matter where they are, or whether they have a “time-out” place. The action is louder then words. The key points are personal isolation and lack of control. Nobody is willing to continue behavior that yields isolation and control of nothing.
Let’s think about this a moment. What should a child get for a positive behavior? If a child helps at the store or cleans their room he or she receives praise and a positive response from their parent. They receive attention and control their parent’s response for that moment. So what should children receive for a negative behavior? Certainly not the same attention from the parent and controlling their parent’s response! We should consistently give negative behaviors a rapid response but that response should involve little attention and a controlled reaction from you. This is the reason “time-outs” are introduced as a tool for parents.
So when your child misbehaves, give them a quick correction. Then isolate them with coldness. Don’t respond to them at all. If you can’t ignore them where they are (if they are screaming, crying or tantruming) then put them someplace else or go somewhere else where you can ignore them. During this entire time stay firm but in control. Don’t let them control your response. You control it. Through being isolated while you are in control your children get just punishment for negative behavior. Over time they will have no motivation for continuing that behavior.
In the scenario I started with, the parent warned about a “time-out” while in the store. But negative behaviors need more immediate consequences. Then when arriving at home, the “time-out” was really a peaceful interactive time together while waiting for lunch. When being punished kids need quick, stern correction followed by a feeling of isolation from their parent while the parent stays in control. A “time-out” is then properly done. A “time-out” is not a thing to be warned about and given to a child later. It is an action done rapidly without warning after negative behaviors. As parents we have a right to respond to behaviors that we do not want to see. If ”time-outs” are done right, kids learn over time that positive behaviors get a better response and naturally gravitate towards them.