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Time outs work most successfully with ages 2-12. Older children and teens resist time outs. Requiring older children to perform extra chores or taking away privilege works better.

The reason time out works well is children aren’t getting the attention they love. They are more likely to change the negative behavior to avoid time outs. Time outs also give the acting out child time to calm down while removing them from the situation where the problem started.

Time out stops the negative behavior from getting worse and stops the negative attention the child is getting from the poor behavior.

Time out works better in a home with a positive atmosphere. Children need lots of positive praise and encouragement to behave. If the home has a negative environment the child won’t mind being removed from the chaos. If this is the case, then time outs probably won’t work as well.

Before Time Out: Find a place to send the child for a time out. This place should be away from the major activity, but still in view of an adult. The younger the child the closer they need to be to an adult. Places that work vary from one child to another. Some suggestions of places that work are the dining room, mud room, laundry room, bathroom, indoor porch, or hallway. Giving a younger child a chair, pillow or blanket to sit on in time out seems to work better.

Prepare the Time Out Place: The time out area should be boring, away from TV or music. The area should be safe. Remove dangerous objects like sharp objects, medicines, breakable glass that children can get at.

Amount of Time: Time outs should last one minute for each year of the child. Some older children can be told to leave time out when they are calm or happy. Use an egg timer, or an oven timer to let the child know when time out is over. This way they will be able to remain quiet and not ask you when it’s over.

Be Consistent: Choose one behavior to change at a time. Children get confused easily. Let them know they will go to time out every time they demonstrate a certain behavior; such as hitting. Make sure you start with a simple behavior that you think will be easy to change. Only try to change one negative behavior at a time. Don’t use for time out for hitting others and then later use time out for screaming. If the older child refuses to go to time out be prepared to take away a privilege for the next hour.

Guidelines for Time Out:

During Time Out: Don’t talk or lecture to the child when they are in time out. Time outs are meant to remove the child from your immediate attention and social contact.

Finish Time Out: When time out is over, you should always be there to tell the child they are done. Be consistent and tell the child they may find something to do that is appropriate.

Start Over: When the timer rings, bring the child out of time out. Don’t let the child come away from time out on there own. Once they know what they did don’t lecture about the problem or the time out.

Return to Where the Child Left Off: If he was doing a chore, he needs to continue the chore he was asked to do before he went into time out.

Don’t Apologize: Don't apologize to the child and don’t dwell on the bad behavior. Let the child know it is over and in the past.

Time Out Rules: If the child isn’t calm when the timer goes off, add a couple more minutes and calmly tell the child they can leave when they stop screaming, or acting out and the timer rings again.


They seem to be having fun. The first few times the child will act like they are having fun. Don’t stop doing time outs. They may even increase the poor behavior. Stay tough. This does not mean time out isn’t working. Children will try to push your buttons to see how serious you are. You may see the following reactions during time out:

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if my husband won’t use time out?

Children need consistency. Make sure both or you avoid interacting with the child during time out.

What if my child says, “I don’t care,” or “I like time outs?”

Ignore them. Be strong and know this discipline tool will change a behavior if you give it time.

What do I do when I feel too angry to give a time out?

First of all calm down. Get help from someone. If you feel angry enough to spank or yell, chances are that the situation went on too long. Avoid getting frustrated to your breaking point. Next time take action before you start feeling out of control. Time outs work best when you are still calm and not about to use other harsh punishments.

What if friends or relatives think you are being too picky about your child going to time out for such a minor problem?

Your child needs to do what you tell them. Doing what you tell them to is not minor. Tell others you don’t need their advice.

What if my child misbehaves outside playing with his friends and refuses to go in for a time out?

Tell your child he can go in the house and do a time out or stop playing outside and stay in the house. You can take away a different privilege instead.

What if I have to put him in time out away from home?

First make sure time outs are working well at home. Ask your child to sit with you in a quiet part of the store, restaurant or church. If weather permits go outside and have the child sit for a time out. You can sit in the car with your child also.

Is Time Out Working? When the behavior has changed then you know the time out is working. Even if he acts as if he likes to do time outs, that doesn’t matter. You just want the negative behavior to stop. Be patient. Sometimes changing a behavior goes away slowly. Make sure you are using the time outs consistently. You will see the behavior decreasing.

Getting Worse: Sometimes the behavior seems to get worse before you see a positive change. This is normal. Be prepared so you don’t want to give up. When you show a child that you will not accept the negative behavior in your presence, he will start to believe you are serious. Stay consistent and once you get past the tough part you will see changes. Once this behavior is under control think about what the next behavior is that needs to stop.

Tips for Younger and Older Children

Two to six year olds need a time out that is one minute for each year of their age. You are not being too mean if you are calmly using them. Make sure the younger child knows what he did wrong and what the rules are for time out. Don’t lecture or argue during or afterwards. You may need to go with younger children to the time out place.

Seven to twelve year olds need to be timed out for one specific behavior at a time. Be consistent and watch to see if the behavior is happening less often. If after using time outs for a while without success consider taking away a privilege. Older children, 11 and 12 may resist time outs and you may need to try something else.

Quick Time Out Guide