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How to Use Time Outs Effectively-Part 1

Posted Monday, December 5, 2011, at 10:16 PM

Parents sometimes come to our office looking for a "secret technique" or some special method of discipline that will completely stop their child's negative behavior. Unfortunately, there is no secret weapon, no cure all discipline technique that will work for 100% of the children with 100% of the problem behaviors. That being said, there are some techniques that we use at the office more frequently than others with overall good results.

Perhaps the most well-known and effective discipline method for younger children is the time out. This method is generally recommended for children from around 3 to 9 or 10 years old. Parents use time outs in many different ways and over the years I've heard many variations of time outs. Some parents have the child sit on a couch, some simply tell them to go to their room for a few minutes, and so on. While I'm not saying that different variations won't work, there are some recommendations that do make the method more successful than others.

I may sound like a broken record here but the first thing to remember is to use the technique consistently. If a behavior warrants a time out on Monday evening when you're watching TV and have plenty of time to spare, then it also warrants a time out on Wednesday when you're trying to finish laundry and wash dishes. By not staying consistent with whatever form of discipline you choose to use, you are teaching your child a very important lesson- "Keep up the negative behavior, I just might get by with it again without a consequence!"

Next time I will outline a basic method of using time outs that will help parents either get started on the right foot or adjust their current methods a little to hopefully make the technique work a little better. Stay tuned for the next post!

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Shannon is a licensed professional counselor and a national certified counselor and owner and clinical director of Tender Hearts Child Therapy Center in Cape Girardeau. He and several therapists at the center specialize in treating child and adolescent mental health issues in Southeast Missouri and work with parents using family therapy to develop parenting/discipline skills to deal with misbehavior and defiance. In his blog Shannon provides education on children's mental health topics and uses a question-and-answer forum for local parents to ask questions related to his field. For more information or to reach Shannon, visit www.tenderheartschildtherapycenter.com