How to Use "Time Out" For Children in Groups

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 2003

When a child is put into "Time Out", the s/he is removed and kept separate out of sight from the group and their activities.

The amount of time spent in Time-Out is determined by the child's age times 2.

Someone is left to inconspicuously watch the child.

The child is instructed, in understandable terminology, to:

1. Be quiet and think of :

*Why his or her actions are disruptive or dangerous to the group/ himself or herself.

*Acceptable behavior s/he could have used.

*Think of personal or other resources to help her or him to choose acceptable behavior.

2. The child is debrief privately at the end of Time-out.

*Discuss with the child:

a. Why his or her actions are disruptive or dangerous to the group/

himself or herself.

b. Acceptable behavior s/he could have used.

c. Think of personal or other resources to help her or him to choose

acceptable behavior.

3. Have the child resolve to use resources keep him or her out of trouble and choose better behavior.

Example: Joey got angry at a child for taking his hat and hit him. Help Joey to realize his resources and to choose which of these would be his best choice or choices to use next time and why.


When Joey comes out of Time-Out he is debriefed, privately...


Using self as a resource:

You ask: "Joey, if you were angry again, what could you do?" . . .

Lead Joey to say, "I could ignore the other child."

"Ask him nicely to return it."

Using adults as a resource:

You ask: "Joey, how could you use an adult/teacher to help you?

Lead Joey to say, "I could tell the teacher what is happening."

"Why would you tell a teacher?"

Lead Joey to say, "It would get ___ in trouble for his choice of behavior instead of me for a bad choice of behavior."


Using friends as a resource:

You ask: " Joey, how could you use your friends to help you get your hat back so none of you would get in to trouble?"

Lead Joey to say, "I could ask them to tell ____to give me back my hat."

4. A reminder to the child of his or her resources when this same trouble begins to occur would be a great help to change the child's behavior. Help the child work through the resources so solve the problem before it warrants Time-out.

Special Note

If Time-Out is not working then you are allowing something to amuse the child at Time-Out. Time-Out should be a boring sterile environment. We are trying to bore the child into obedience.

All tantrums are ignored unless they are violent and/or an endangerment to self, others or property. Without making a big deal of it, quickly remove the child to a more protective place and continue Time-Out. Tantrums are of no use unless they have an audience. A behavior exist because it fulfills and want or a need. When it the behavior does no get the individual what is wanted or needed it will eventually be abandoned. However the behavior will exacerbate before it is abandon.

Example: A person puts a quarter into a candy machine. The machine gives out no candy. The person first politely pulls the knobs, but finishes this behavior by bashing and kicking the machine before he stops and walks away.

The worst thing you can do is reinforce a consequence intermittently. That tells the child that they have a chance to get away this behavior, therefore they can continue the behavior because they have a chance to get away with it.

This is like the individual that feeds copious amounts of quarters into the jackpot gambling machine in Los Vegas because his or her behavior is rewarded intermittently.

**So be consistent or be ready to deal with the lousy behavior continuously.**


How to Use "Time Out" at Home

Basically follow the same techniques that are listed in Time-out in groups. Review the material.

Remove the child a little ways from the rest of the family and what they are doing, to a boring but safe place. This area should be far enough away that the child is not bothering others and they are not bothering him or her. Maintain surveillance on the child while being with the rest of the family group.

When the problem arises for the . . .

First Time: The child is told "If you choose to do _____ again you will spend five minutes in 'Time Out." (The time spent in time should be calculated by age times 2.)

Second Time: The child spends five minutes in "Time Out". At the end of "Time Out", s/he is told if s/he chooses to behave this way again s/he will an additional

(age X 2) minutes in "Time Out."

Continue to put the child into time-out each time they misbehave. The bad behavior will be consistent until they learn that:

1) You will consistently give them a time-out.

2) This type of behavior is not going to benefit them any further.

Once they realize these two ideas, the behavior will change. The child will try this bad behavior again to see if you are going to be consistent in giving a time-out.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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