With the current times you’re probably losing your mind stuck at home with one or more of your kids. No doubt your kids have done SOMETHING wrong and you’ve thought about using time outs. You might have even read my last article on time outs but have one or more reasons why they didn’t work.

This second part to the Time Out article highlights many of the reasons parents tell me they don’t work and what you can do to be successful. There’s no time like the present to solidify new techniques!

Rest assured it can be done- but also know that changing behavior is never easy. It takes time (and patience) for children to start understanding the consequences of their actions. Here are some of the more common issues families bring back to me at follow up visits.

A child in time out or in trouble

1)   “I’ve tried and I’ve failed.” 

Keep it up. Make sure all care providers are fully engaged and ready to commit to the discipline of time outs. Above all else, you need to be: 

A) consistent 

B) clear about when to use it

C) ensure it remains developmentally appropriate for their age

Persevere, because some kids take longer than others.

2)   “They don’t seem to understand why they are going in time out.”

We tend to over-explain things as parents, expecting our 4-year-old to follow along with a discourse on why hitting is wrong and how it affects other people. I’m here to tell you that they don’t. When they are doing the undesired behavior, a simple warning is enough. 

“Jack, you’re going to go in time-out if you do [behavior] again.”

If they continue the behavior, take them to time out, sit them down, and be brief and to the point. 

“Jack, I warned you and you continued doing [behavior here]. Because of that, you are now in time-out.”

It’s brief, to the point, and clear to a toddler or child. Keep it brief for the best results to clearly lay out cause and effect. 

3)   “I don’t know what to do when the behavior happens outside of the house.” 

The nice thing about time outs is they can be done at a friend’s house, in the car, or in a grocery store. Any isolated location that doesn’t have anything fun around works as a time out location, and your phone can be used as a timer. I wouldn’t recommend beginning time out training in a grocery store, however, given the inevitable meltdown that occurs when you start trying to change behaviors. Time outs require patience on your part- so be prepared to put in your part of the work in any location.

4)   I can’t keep them in time out for the allotted time. 

This is something I hear when time out training is just beginning. Since kids don’t innately understand what time outs are about, you should expect them to get up and run when they are taken to the new location. I can’t underestimate this enough! The first few times you might have to physically replace them over and over in the designated time out location. If they get up and leave, take them back to the time out location and tell them the time starts over. Time out is only over when they sit in the time out location for the allotted time. This will happen over and over again at first, decreasing with consistent use. 

5)   “They yell, kick, and scream in time out, what do I do?” 

If they aren’t hurting anyone or themselves (or doing more “wrong” behaviors), ignore it. This is them expressing themselves in one of the few ways they know how. Just like tantrums, the antidote is a healthy dose of ignorance. With ample time and consistency they will diminish in severity. 

6)   “They try and talk to me and consistently ask when they are done. I can’t take it!”

No conversations should be allowed in time out or the timer starts over. That brings up the point of using a timer to eliminate the questions of when they are done. If they haven’t heard the timer go off, they know their time isn’t up. If they want to continue having conversations, the time will start over. Consistency and patience are key. 

Modifying behavior is difficult. You might be consistent, clear, and appropriate in your use of time outs but behaviors still might persist. If that’s the case, talk to your pediatrician about other options or guidance. 

Comment below on challenges you had during time out training 👇

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