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The purpose of a time-out is to be a punishment, not just a new place to play or be entertained. This means a child should not be allowed to do anything there but be bored. After all, if your kid thinks time-out isn't so bad, what's the incentive to behave well next time? To that end, don't let your child out of time-out until you're convinced she's been there long enough to experience some frustration and really want to earn her ticket out. How long depends upon the child, but as a guideline, leave her there for one minute for every year of life. Of course, if your 3-year-old seems unfazed by a three-minute time-out, it's fine to make it four or five.
Copyright 2002. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.