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A Script for Timeouts That Actually Work

A Script for Timeouts That Actually Work

Circle of Moms member Stacy R. writes, "Every time I have to put my daughter in time out its a battle... I mean a big battle. She hits, kicks, pinches and says mean things. I am at the end of my rope and don’t
know what to do.”

Many parents find themselves in the same dance. The Time-out Dance. The one where parents try to get kids to sit in the time-out spot and the child refuses. There is more time spent on that dance than the child would have spent in time-out. If this is your routine, it is time for a change...

“I said clean up the blocks or you get a time out!”

I know that “time out” is what adults are being told to tell non-listening children, but without explanation of why a child is in “time out," the life lesson is being lost. In the aforementioned scenario a child will hear this:


“I did not clean, so I am in trouble.”

Maybe that IS what you are saying, but that will not prevent the mess leaving the next time your child is playing. If you choose “time out” as a consequence for your child, frame it so that it becomes a lesson instead of a punishment. So that, even if they are mad, children understand why they have to pause on playing or clean up their activity before moving on to another.

“I need you to clean up the blocks or you cannot move onto another activity. If you are not going to clean, you will have to stay here until you are ready. You choose when you get to move on.” (Said in a calm, quiet voice.)

I am not saying you can’t use the words “time out” if you so choose. I am just imploring you to use them clearly and with the intent of banishing the frustrating behavior, not the child.

Brandi Davis is a professional Parenting Coach with a Bachelors of Science in Child Development and Family Studies, and 14 years of teaching experience. Her book, O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? is a compilation of articles touching on a myriad of child rearing topics such as parent-child communication, quick dinners, tantrums, how to get your kids to listen, productive discipline and much more, and will help parents find new ways to get what they need accomplished without all of the tantrums and power struggles that create conflicts within the family.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

JeanneGustafson JeanneGustafson 6 years
Consistency has been a key with my children. A well-defined consequence (if sitting in a corner doesn't affect your child or you can't physically make them do it, losing another privilege could be more effective). When the child in question can't follow direction, I try to state clearly the logical consequence if they don't comply with my request, and give them to the count of three. The trick for me has been carrying out the consequence swiftly and dispassionately (even expressing sympathy for them that through their own actions they've lost this privilege or have this consequence). For my kids, following through each time meant I only had to do it a very few times. Now, I just start counting, and virtually never get past 2, and virtually never give time outs unless that's the logical consequence (i.e. they really are upset, angry, and need time to calm down so we can deal with the issue). Everyone is individual and children respond differently, but I think if you describe a consequence that's appropriate to the situation and makes sense to the child AND that you are willing and able to carry out, they can be empowered to make a better choice and you eliminate the battle. It's "ok, this is what I need you to do, and if you don't make a good choice, this is what is going to happen, and you have until the count of three to make a decision."
RebeccaMalaguti RebeccaMalaguti 6 years
I have a very defiant 8 year old boy. His 5 year old brother is beginning to copy his behavior. I go through hell daily playing referee. When asked to do something the oldest responds "No" or "If I do it then I get to do ???". Don't even get me started on the Tantrums he still throws. Staying calm is not an easy task when you are trying to be heard over a yelling & screaming child. Look at it this way... We are a walking talking toy (like a video game) to our kids. They like to push our buttons and see how we react. I have tried numerous approaches with my 8 year old. Some work for awhile and then I have to think of something else. Best advice you can give a parent is understanding & some useful options (tools). What works for one child may not work for another. All kids are different and challenging in there own unique way. Goodluck...
CoMMember13628234672823 CoMMember13628234672823 6 years
I wonder if this parenting coach with all the teaching experience is a mother. My twins give me hell about everything, but they do everything asked of them by teachers without defiance.
ErinPreuss ErinPreuss 6 years
My 2 year old son is always hitting, biting, pushing and defiant. I tell him to do something and the first response is no. I have tried time outs but they don't seem to work. Any ideas?
AlyshaPhillips10355 AlyshaPhillips10355 6 years
my son is funny now if he does something naughty he puts homself in timeout
CindySoto CindySoto 6 years
This solution doesn't necessarily address a child who is resisting any type of correction or reprimand. The Circle of Mom's member Stacy R. was probably asking for a lot more advice than what was given her. The response was really weak.
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