Time Out

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

October 18, 2010


Categories: Family, Parenting

Putting rabbit in time-out.

Sometimes Rabbit needs a time out to think about what he did wrong. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

A few people I know told me they tried them, but they didn’t work. After they told me how they used time outs, I didn’t hear where the consistency was in place. So, I would like to go through the steps we use as adopted from the aforementioned Ms. Jo Frost.

Your child commits his offense. Levi gets time outs for things like back talk, not doing what he’s told after he’s given three chances, not listening, throwing toys, attempting to hit, and a myriad of other reasons. Temper tantrums issue the aforementioned Go to your room!. But, how do we do time outs?

  1. A warning is issued. “If you throw your toy again, you will be put in time out.”
  2. After the offense is committed after the warning, we take him by the hand, and walk him to the time out spot. Do not yank. Do not pull. Lead him to the time out spot. Our spot is a kitchen stool then placed in the center of 1/2 of our kitchen.
  3. Get down at his level, tell him why he’s in time out. “You are in time out for throwing your toy. You will be in time out for 3 minutes.”
  4. Set the timer. SET THE TIMER. Time outs need real time, not imagined. Let your child get over the annoying beep, it’s there for a reason – to let everyone know time out is over. The timer is set one minute for each year of your kiddo. Levi is 3 and a half. His time outs are three minutes.
  5. When the timer goes off, promptly attend to your child. Here is where we diverge. We will either ask Levi why he was in time out or remind him. To practice understanding, I prefer to ask him first and if he can’t say why he was in time out, then I will remind him.
  6. Acknowledge the wrong behavior. No matter how we achieve the previous step, Levi has to acknowledge what he did wrong and recognize that he cannot do it again. “No throwing your toys.” Levi to repeat, “No throwing your toys.” If he cannot or won’t acknowledge the deed, he goes back in time out for three more minutes. He is thus warned.
  7. After he recognizes what was done wrong, he must apologize. Levi’s preschool teacher doesn’t like the forced apology, so to speak, because she finds they are mostly empty. I like him getting in the habit. He must make eye contact, and at least act like he means it. We have a kiddo with a fairly empathic temperament, so it’s usually clear that he means it.
  8. Hugs & kisses and all forgotten. After the apology is given, then you tell your child you love him and give him a big hug. The deed is forgotten, and as a parent, you do not bring it up again (unless it’s a reminder that you’ll get a time out for doing the deed again). But you don’t hold it over his head. You don’t bribe him for something he’s already been punished.
Supernanny, Jo Frost(R), at the Children's Mus...

Image via Wikipedia

We started using time outs when Levi was about 9 months old. We also started watching Supernanny before he turned 6 months. Breast feeding was a long, enduring process that meant Levi and I watched a lot of T.V. Supernanny became a family thing. Peter and I enjoyed it right away. It spoke to our boundary setting desires and was stern in a way that didn’t include harsher methods we grew up with. We found Supernanny to be incredibly tame by many standards. We appreciate her consistency for parents and children, alike. We differ from what she does on a few things, for example, we don’t see spanking as evil like many do today, when employed without anger. So many of my friends use the “He’ll grow out of it” reasoning for not setting certain boundaries for their children. And, yes, it’s more than two of you who’ve said that to me. Sure, it might be true, but seeing them so stressed is hard to watch. So, I’m writing this as an encouragement for more consistent boundaries for the whole family.

As a caveat, we also think Levi’s temperament has a lot to do with why some things work. We know we are blessed with a kid with a decent temperament, but from the start my husband and I have set boundaries, and we also know that helps. Try it. It works. Every household deserves sanity.

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