How do I handle time-out?

Q: When I put my child in time-out, should I let her look at a book or play with a toy?

A: 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

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