STOP Doing Time Outs Immediately!
First, let’s get something straight here… Not all parents want or need parenting advice or parenting tips. If your young child misbehaves, and he obeys promptly when you put him in timeout, then this post may not be for you. If your child will, without a struggle, go in the direction of your pointing finger, sit down, and only get up when you say so (undoubtedly for the 1 minute per age of your child), you are already winning at the ‘effective parenting” game. You simply don’t need to read this parenting tip on timeouts!
If, however, you marvel at the well-behaved children who do what they are told the first time because your own kid laughs in your face when you tell him to go to time out and you feel you could use some parenting help, this is CERTAINLY for you!
NOTE: I’m going to use “timeout” to mean “the naughty spot” or “the no-no chair” or any phrase that suits you.
So, What Is Time Out, Anyway?
Timeout, as it’s commonly used today, was most likely created by psychologist John Rosemond. He is the one who recommended the one minute per year of life rule, and it worked (for the well-behaved, infrequently disobedient child). What John discovered, however, is that timeout did not work for the strong-willed child.
My Time Out Story
I came to be a parent coach because I struggled with parenting! When I was a young mother of a very strong-willed two-year-old daughter (my mother actually said she came into this world screaming like her hair was on fire), I was at my wit’s end. I had just put my daughter in “the naughty spot” for hitting me. What happened next shocked me… After I sat her on that bottom step, she popped right up, smiled, and laughed (at me!). I just stood there, shocked. If I couldn’t get a little toddler to do what I wanted, what was I going to do when she got older?
How I Discovered The Right Way To Do Time Out
I remembered that my mother had sent me clippings from the Roanoke Times newspaper with John Rosemond’s column in it. I stored the clippings in his book, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific! thinking I’d never need them (I graduated with honors with a BS in Early Childhood Education, after all). After my futile attempts to discipline my toddler, I thumbed through the book and VOILA! I found the correct way for timeout for strong-willed children.
And here’s what I did the next time my Little Darling hit me; I took my daughter by the hand, quite calmly I’d like to add, and said “You. Don’t. Hit. Mommy.” I walked her to the bottom step in the front hallway and said: “You sit here in the naughty spot until I tell you to get up.”
Then I backed away, somewhat slowly, and turned my head just until I could watch her discreetly with the side of my eye. When I saw the little muscles of her legs constrict, preparing to get up, I whipped my head around, gestured at her and said, with a smile, “You may get up now.”
So, What Happened?
Well, the most incredible thing happened… My darling daughter sat back down! Hard and with a straight face! And I walked away wondering what in the world took me so long to read that book (you can get it here: Rosemond.com)
And Now, For A Different Perspective
Let’s say you prefer your parenting advice in a step-by-step version. You’ll like the following explanation of the ONLY way to do timeouts:
First, you need to know there are 3 phases to this method and 5 steps in the first phase:
It’s important to understand that the point of putting a child in timeout is NOT to make your child sit in a spot for 1, 2, or 3 minutes. It’s actually better psychologically and more effective to respond to your child’s misbehavior assertively. In another word, you need to establish that YOU are in charge. You are The Big Kahuna. Big Mama. Big Daddy. Or just plain ol’ Mom or Dad (or babysitter).
2) State the consequence
3) Put in timeout while saying “Sit here until I tell you to get up”
4) Step back
5) Say “You may get up now”
Your child is most likely going to get up right after being sat down so, by giving permission to get up almost immediately, the child is now doing what you told him to do! Ah, John Rosemond is a clever guy! By calmly doing this, you are letting your child know that you are in charge of you and him. This method is an assertive and proactive response to a child’s misbehavior. The good news is that after say, 4 weeks, your child will wait for your permission to get up from time out! You don’t believe me? Well, try to prove me wrong! Give it a try, and if you follow these instructions, you will be amazed at the result.
Continue for several weeks then begin g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y lengthening the time between sitting your child in timeout and telling him to get up from time out.
When your child reaches the age of three or so, you may begin using a timer. This is also the developmental age when most children can grasp delayed consequences (I have lots of tips on this so be sure to opt into my invitation below).
Now you can amaze your friends and family with your new magic trick (or I should say magic wand)… Just kidding. You can regain your sanity within a few weeks because your strong-willed Little Darling will begin waiting for you to give permission to get out of timeout. This is a small but vital step in establishing your loving authority over your child. And, as your child continues to grow and develop, you will continue to provide limits and boundaries that will keep your Little Darling safe, secure, and (reasonably) well-behaved. This is one of the best-kept secrets that have worked for other moms and will definitely work for you if you observe it judiciously. The positive results you get while taking the steps I recommend will encourage you till your words become your child’s command.
Is your child “E X T R A?”
You’ve learned a lot about how to use Time Out effectively. That’s a great start. But, some of us have sensitive children who have a hard time calming down even if you use timeout the right way. I know because I have one of those kids! If you do too, I’ve created a PDF, the “Take 5 Technique” that you can use with your child to help him calm down, while staying connected with your child, and then everyone can enjoy their day.
Enter your name and email address below and we’ll send the Take 5 Technique PDF directly to your inbox.