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 Tips & Articles


Positive Discipline & Time Out

Time out involves removing a child for a brief period of time and is effective in helping to set limits for children and teaching them what is appropriate. It is an extension of ignoring poor behaviour (i.e. removing attention which is inadvertently encouraging the behaviour) and helps parents or carers remain in control. It has been shown to be significantly more effective than smacking. It should be used sparingly, practised and is most appropriate when a child refuses to do as they're told. For more minor behavioural difficulties such as demanding alternative methods should be employed such as ignoring or removing a privilege.

Time out is most effective for children between the ages of 2-6 and should not be used with very young children.

The following procedure has been developed from the work of Forehand, R. & Long, N. (1996). Parenting The Strong Willed Child: The clinically proven five week programme for parents of two to six year olds.

 Choose a Location

Best options


         Parents bedroom

         Kitchen corner( for 2-3 year olds)

         Use a corner or chair where there is nothing for the child to be distracted away from the punishment.

Least desirable

         Child's bedroom

Not options



         Dark room

         Know where a child could be frightened!


1.     Issue a good direction

2.     If your child does not begin to comply within 5 seconds issue a warning, " If you do not ................, you will have to take time out"

3.     If your child does not comply within 5 seconds state, " because you did not ..............., you have to take time out"

4.     Lead your child to time out without lecturing scolding or arguing. Withdraw to another room.

5.     Ignore shouting, protesting and promising to comply. Avoid eye contact.

6.     Tell your child to sit in the time out chair or stand still in the corner facing the wall.

7.     When your child is sitting quietly, set the timer ( 1 minute for every year of age up to a maximum of 5 minutes)

8.     When the time is over, including being quiet for the last thirty seconds return to the chair or corner and say that time out is over

9.     Restate the original direction

10. Implement the time out again if your child does not comply

11. When your child complies it is very important to use praise so the child learns what behaviour is expected.

Steps to Using Time Out

1.     Select time out place

2.     Memorise the steps

3.     Practice without your child

4.     Tell your child about time out for non-compliance

5.     Begin to use time out for failure to comply with directions

6.     Begin using time out for other problem behaviours in the home

7.     Begin using time out for other problems in public places


         Avoid giving lengthy explanations about why you are using time out.

         Avoid trying to make your child feel guilty or to give you an apology - you are aiming to get them to do what you wanted.

         Don't let them make you feel guilty even if they say they are going to comply before they get to the chair or corner. To stop it before it is completed will give the message that - "I donít have to comply until I have been warned and until I have been sent to time out"

         The message you want them to get is - "I should comply when I am asked to do something"

Problems and Solutions

         Refusing to sit in the chair - do not start time out until your child is seated.

         Leaving chair or moving - stop the timer.

         Place him in chair tell him to sit still and place your hand on his leg. Try to avoid eye contact.

         Remove a privilege if he does not return to the chair (for 5 year olds and up).

         If you use a corner and your child attempts to come out before time out is up, return him immediately without any fuss and stand close with your back to the child.

         Insulting you verbally - ignore the results

         Yelling and crying - ignore

         Refusing to leave the time out - start the time out again

         Sibling interaction during time out - if feasible put the sibling in time out in another location

 Good luck and donít for get to practise the technique and give it chance to work (at least 2 weeks)! A child's negative response to the punishment is understandable but in a relatively short period of time will significantly subside as your child learns you mean business; then the mere threat of time out will often result in compliance.



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