Top Timeout FAQs

Making Timeouts Work For You: Common Timeout FAQs

As noted in last month’s article “The Ten Absolute Timeout Musts,” timeouts work wonders, but only when used properly. To increase the success of  timeouts, Achieve Life Balance, collected answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to timeout:

What Behaviors Do Timeouts Work Best For?

Timeouts are considered effective for general non-compliance, verbal and physical aggression, property damage, yelling and similar behaviors.

Are There Age Limits For Timeouts?

Experts don’t exactly agree on set age limitations. The AAP suggests 2 to 5 years. Timeouts can start as young as twelve months, but only as a last resort.  When timeout is used on a child this young, hold her firmly, until she calms down.  This is considered more of a training or introduction to timeout. Many children under two (even three) can’t sit still long enough and are too young to connect bad behavior to timeout. At this age, it’s more effective to be direct. For example, state a firm “no” as you remove your child’s hand from the cat’s tail.  As for older children, consequences (such as  taking away a phone or computer) are far more effective for teens, preteens, and older elementary children, over sitting silently in a corner. Additional support for toddlers to teens, is available in this free eBook: “Alternatives to Time Out”.

How Do I Handle Timeouts In Public?

For many parents, timeouts are easier to carry out at home than at a grocery store, church  or other public place.  If your kiddo is relatively calm,  use the shopping cart as a portable timeout. However, if he’ screaming and/or disruptive he should be removed.  In an emergency, the car seat may offer a secure and private timeout (while you sit quietly in the front seat).  Regardless, if public timeouts prove challenging be prepared with a plan for poor behavior.

It’s Very Difficult To Ignore My Child During Timeout. What Should I Do?

The answer to this timeout question depends on why you’re struggling.  Does your son easily pull you into an argument? Perhaps you forget to stay quiet. Grab a pair of headphones, concentrate on taking deep, calm breaths, or ask another adult to handle the timeout. If timeout is genuinely uncomfortable for you, or your child appears anxious, try one of these timeout twists.

Is Timeout The Only Technique I Should Use?

No. While it’s important to be consistent (your child should know what actions lead to a timeout), other consequences may work better. In addition, overusing timeouts can reduce their effectiveness. Parenting workshops can help you learn when and how to use the most effective tactic for each scenario.

Why Won’t My Child Stay In Timeout?

Doing everything timeout experts suggest? Consider these possibilities.  Perhaps your child is:

  • New to timeout and doesn’t understand sitting still is required
  • Too young or too active to sit still (This includes potential health reasons that make it difficult to follow timeout rules)
  • Having fun playing chase with Mom and Dad
  • Testing the boundaries of timeout
  • Testing parent’s boundaries
  • Hopeful that Mom/Dad will give up
  • Enjoys the power that comes from frustrating her parents
  • Not affected by timeout. The timeout isn’t that big of a deal to him

Many timeout experts insist kids eventually give up running (if Mom doesn’t give up first)—which means you must keep returning your child to timeout until it sticks. Unfortunately, if you have a runner, timeout can quickly turn into an exhausting battle of the wills. Frustration leads to anger and loss of control—the opposite of effective parenting.

What If Timeout Isn’t Working?

Some children just don’t respond well to timeouts. A child’s personality can have a lot to do with its effectiveness. If you’re using timeouts correctly with little success (research shows more than 80 percent of parents are using timeout improperly), changing it up may solve your problem. This could be as simple as adding a “twist” to the traditional timeout or using a completely different disciplinary technique.
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