We're just back from Britain and a precious few weeks with grandchildren. With a four-year-old in the house, time out got a bit of a working.
It seems timely, then, to revisit time out as a method of disciplining children aged roughly from 18 months to 10 years. If well set-up and used consistently it can be very effective.
There are several different ways you can do this, but if you've not used it before, consider the sort of formal structure suggested by most experts. This will provide that clear and consistent framework.
Time out generally involves placing your child on a chair for a short period of time, and the beauty of it is that it requires little preparation. Firstly, you'll need a small, portable kitchen timer, preferably with a good, loud ring, and, secondly, an appropriate place for them to sit.
It needs to be a dull place where the television can't be viewed or toys played with. It mustn't be a dark, scary or dangerous place – not in a cupboard under the stairs, for example. The aim is to remove your child to a place where not much is happening, not to create fear. Ideally, it would be a chair in a hallway or uninteresting corner.
Finally, you need to think through and discuss with any other adults in the house which behaviours will result in time out. Consistency is important.
That's the preparation. Now comes the introductory stage, when you explain to your child what time out is all about. Choose an occasion that's pleasant and not one when you actually need to use it.
Firstly, explain to your child that time out is something that will follow naughty behaviour and involve sitting quietly on this chair in this place until the timer rings.
Next explain that there are two rules to follow in time-out. Rule one is that the timer will start once the child is seated and that they are to remain there until the time is up.
Rule two concerns what happens if they get off the chair before the timer rings. They will be ordered back to the chair or placed there and the timer will be reset.
The younger you start this process the better control you have over it.
Having explained the rules, check your child's understanding by asking them to tell you how it will work and, in particular, check that they know what will happen if they leave the chair before the timer rings. Additionally, you could then go through the procedure of a time out telling them that you're only pretending this time.
That's the mechanics. Next week I'll cover the actual procedures of its use.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.