Health Library

Health Library

Time-Out

Guidelines for time-out

Time-out is a type of discipline that is used to stop a child from performing a bad behavior "isolating" the child for a period of time. Time-out removes a child from the situation and gives him or her time to calm down. It also helps establish that the parent is in charge, and allows the child to think about what he or she has done. Time-outs are useful for aggressive and harmful behaviors in toddlers and preschool-aged children.

Where should a time-out occur?

The place for time-out to occur should be chosen ahead of time, not at the time of the behavior. The following are some examples of places for time-out:

  • Crib or play pen

  • Chairs or corners of the room

  • A designated room

How long should a time-out last?

  • A general guideline is one minute for each year of the child's age. For example, 3-year-olds get 3 minutes of time-out.

  • A maximum length of time for time-out should be no more than 5 minutes.

Placing your child in time-out

  • The reason the child is being sent to time-out should be explained to him or her in very clear statements.

  • If the child does not go to time-out on his or her own, lead him or her there.

  • Do not spank or yell on the way to time-out.

Stopping time-out

  • As a parent, you decide when time-out is over, not the child. If the child "escapes" during time-out, restart the clock.

  • Tell your child time-out is over and allow him or her to resume normal activities.

  • Treat the child normally after time-out. Do not lecture again on the behavior.

Time-Out - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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