7 Steps to Giving an Effective Timeout

For the last two years I’ve worked as Registered Behavioral Technician, working with children diagnosed with autismThere is somewhat controversy with the job itself because I am technically “training behaviors” which is true. Yet, I do it in a really fun kid friendly way! Here is method I have used with deescalating tantrums, increasing communication, and even potty training. There will be more posts coming soon but here’s one on giving a good time out.

Step 1: Catch them in the Act

The split second you see your child heading over to commit a baby crime (jumping on the dog/hitting/dumping your purse/etc.) You’ve got to stop them, why? When you set your child up for success you don’t need to punish them and the pay out is so much better than hearing a crying baby for five minutes. If they did throw their food on the floor, you’ve got to pick them up and move to step two. Don’t go and pick everything up and huff and puff about it, save the clean up for after because first you’re setting the bar straight.

Step 2: Time Out Spot

Where you chose to give your child a timeout whether it is in their room/the living room/on a seat make sure it’s comfortable. Following through takes some time and putting your child in a place where they are familiar with will be less frustrating. If you’re in a restaurant- take them outside, if you’re at home- put them in their room, if you’re at a park- sit in the car. Make sure that you take them to this place immediately after you say, “alright, you’re getting a time out”. It put’s two in two in their head so they know they are getting a time out for whatever behavior they just hit you with.

Step 3: Poker Face

Your child is going to look at your facial expression to see if whatever they just did was wrong. My son’s favorite thing to do is look up at me and smile (like it’s going to reverse what he just did) so I give him a serious straight face. You also do not need to yell, because the more words you use the more confusing it could be for your child. Also, yelling is going to tire you out more than them.

Step 4: Follow Through

Number one tip – you have to follow through. There is no going back for you, please don’t stop mid punishment and get suckered by your devious child. Right after they’ve committed the crime – you made the face – said ” you’re going to need a time out” or whatever your “time out phrase” is – now take them straight to the spot.

Step 5: Less Miserable For the Both of You

A tantruming child trying to get out of a time out brings a lot of pressure, it gets the pot cooking and a lot of attention. Just be confident that you’re the boss and this time out was earned for bad behavior. If they’re screaming, then they’re screaming. You don’t need to yell or encourage them to yell by screaming. Just turn around and wait for your child to get your attention appropriately (it could take up to ten minutes), whether it’s a hug/trying to get on your lap/ i’m sorry that’s when you can end the time out. I usually go by age – 1 year is 1 minute, 2 years is 2 minutes. This works for me because my child is really young and him understanding 00

Step 6: Compliance

This is how you know you’ve given a proper time out. Check in with your kid and if they’re still whining “no no no!” or hitting back then go back to time out. Don’t pick them up and try to comfort them into calming down, because that will encourage the whining and crying. When you plan on giving your child a timeout make sure you’re going to follow through. This could take up to 4-10 minutes. I’ve had kids that have taken two hours to calm down because they’re so used to getting babied.

Step 7: Post- Time Out

What’s done is done moms and dads. You might feel bad that you had to let your kiddo “cry it out” for ten minutes or so but you are teaching them self independence and you’re giving them choices to either calm down or stay in time out. Staying neutral after the timeout is going to be a key point. If you’re still mad after the time out (because you had to pick up all the food they threw on the floor). Let your kid know you still love them but don’t say ” I was just mad, you didn’t deserve a time out” bullshit they were acting up and they deserved the time out. Just move on and offer them something and it’s all good as pie.

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