Ask Our Experts

Got Questions? We've got answers from experts and parents who've been there.

How do I handle time-out?

When I put my child in time-out, should I let her look at a book or play with a toy?
Submitted by Parents.com Team

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.

Community Answers5

Answer this Question
X
Enter an Answer to this Question

Tips
500 characters left


I have always used the one minute per years old rule, works very well. But it is also very important to discuss why the child was put in the time out, with the child. Without a dialog as to what, why or how the behavior is incorrect, it makes it difficult to fully correct the poor behavior. It also shows your child that you care about their feelings when you discuss the situation with them. This will also lead to healthier communication between your child and others in the future.
Submitted by jtaubel1
Getting my near 3-yr-old to sit still and "observe" a time out is near impossible so I do it differently. He has to sit on the floor on my lap while I slowly and calmly count to 10, 15, 20, depending on severity of the infraction. I've had almost 100% success with this b/c HE sees it as punishment. It's all perception! The counting, without fail, gives us each an opportunity to cool off. Afterward, I ask him why he got a time out; he's typically spot-on with his response or we discuss.
Submitted by SharonMarie
Time out is an opportunity for your child to reflect on his actions and his behavior and the consequences associated with those behaviors. For young children a time out could simply be a separation from the stressor/trigger causing poor behavior...a time away. For a young child a toy/book could be a way to help teach him to entertain/distract himself. However, for older children, a toy/book might seem a reward for bad behavior. 1 minute per year of age is a great rule of thumb
Submitted by JenHar09
Yes it's ok for the child to look at a book because the child is able to sit quietly and read something it very educational
Submitted by csmcmillian267
My 2ยข - if your kid has a solid emotional bond with the family, then the punishment of time out is removal from the family. The message is "when you're not sweet, you get to spend time alone with yourself." If they have a good emotional relationship with the family and find themselves calm enough to play* once alone, there is no harm. Harm is rewarding bad behavior with your own upset &/or ignoring it. (*TV and computers don't count in this. Those really don't belong in kids rooms at all. Ever.)
Submitted by joyouspassions