Time Out!

Time out gets a “bad rap” largely because it is misused for every form of disobedience under the sun.  Here, time out is designed to be only one part of the process previously described in economics 101 and 201 and should not be “over-used.”   Here’s the rule of thumb: If your child is throwing a temper-tantrum and needs to help himself or herself calm down, the child is sent to time out.

Always give your child a chance to calm down by saying, “Stop.  It’s time to calm yourself down.”

  • Use a firm but pleasant voice.
  • Don’t yell at your child, and do not ask it as a favor.
  • Make a simple, direct statement to your child is a businesslike tone of voice.

After you have given the command, count backwards from 5 to 1 out loud.

If your child has not made a move to comply within these 5 seconds, you should make direct eye contact, raise your voice to a louder level, adopt a firm posture or stance and say,  “If you don’t do what I asked, then you are going to sit in that chair!”  Then point to the chair placed in the corner of the room.

The chair should be facing the wall with nothing to look at during the time-out.

Count down from 5 to 1 out loud again, and if the child has still not started to comply, take the child firmly by the wrist or upper arm and say, “You did not do as I asked, so you must go to the chair!”

  • Promptly, take the child to the chair.
  • Take the child to the chair regardless of any promises he or she may make.
  • If the child resists, use slight physical force if necessary.
  • The child is not to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or stand and argue with the parent.

Place the child in the chair and say firmly, “You stay there until I tell you to get up!”

You may tell the child you are not coming back until he is quiet, but do not repeat this too often.

Once or twice is enough.

No one else is to talk to the child during this time.

  • Do not argue with your child while he/she is in the time-out chair.
  • You should go back to doing your previous work, but be sure to keep an eye on what the child is doing in the chair.

After the child has served 1-2 minutes for each year of his/her age, and is quiet, return to your child and say, “Now are you ready to do as I have asked?” If the child did something that cannot be corrected (swearing) then say, “Do you promise not to swear again?”

At this point the child is to do what he or she was supposed to do before the time out.  After the child complies, the parent should then say, “I like it when you do as I say.” Watch for and immediately praise your child’s next appropriate behavior

If time out occurs during meal time, the child is to miss that portion of the mealtime that was spent sitting in the chair.  No effort should be made to prepare the child a special snack later to compensate for missing that part of the meal.

The first time the child leaves the chair or tips over the chair, put him/her back in the chair and say firmly, “If you get out of that chair again, I’m going to put you in your room!”

When the child leaves the chair again, you are to send the child to his/her bedroom.

  • Have the child sit on his/her bed.
  • Remove all major play items so that there is little or nothing attractive to play with while your child is in the room.
  • You may leave the door of the child’s bedroom open.
  • If the child attempts to leave the room, the door is to be closed and locked if necessary to ensure the time-out period is served.


  • Your child will become quite upset when first sent to time out.
  • Your child may become quite angry and vocal while in time out.
  • Your child may cry because his/her feelings have been hurt.
  • Continued crying may result in your child having to remain in time-out well past her minimum sentence because she is not yet quiet: your child may spend 30-minutes to 2 hours in the chair the first time before becoming quiet and agreeing to do what was asked of her.
  • Over time, you will find that your child will begin to obey your warnings about time out.
  • Eventually, your child will begin obeying your fist commands.
  • Your child will not be happy about this procedure.


  • Know that you are not harming your child.
  • Know that you are helping your child develop better self-control, respect for authority, and the ability to follow rules.
  • Know that sometimes, children must experience unhappiness if they are to learn certain rules to be followed within families and society.