Time Out

Summer is finally here!  After a long, wet, cold winter, we have jumped straight into an Alabama summer.  We have to transition from school and after school activities to long days with personal face to face interactions with our children. This seemed to be a good time to discuss Time Out.

Time Out has been around for many decades.  It is a type of social exclusion used as a way to modify behavior.  You remove the child from the situation of inappropriate behaviors.  There has to be a distinct difference between Time In and Time Out.  Consistency is very important, as is giving one warning, not 3-4.  Time In is fun and positive, Time Out is social isolation.

Time Out is more effective when the child has improving language skills at around 18 months old.  In general, 7 or 8 years of age is when it becomes less effective.  It involves a specific amount of time: one minute for every year of age. The area of time out should be quiet and boring: no electronics or toys.  Social isolation means the child is unable to talk to others, and others should not talk to him/her.  It can be a corner of the room, a specific chair, or a separate location.  Time Out is not ended until the child has been quiet and cooperative.

102 web sites were evaluated by Drayton et al for accuracy regarding Time Out recommendations. NONE included completely accurate information.

The Key Components of Effective Time Out Administration as published in academicpedsjnl.net/article/S1876-2859(16)30407-7/abstract

  • Time In:  
    • Positive reinforcement of good behaviors is essential.
    • Social attention, praise, privileges, or rewards are common aspects of Time In.
  • Immediacy:
    • Consequences are more impactful when applied immediately after the target behavior.
    • Avoid multiple warnings.
    • Avoid lengthy explanations.
  • Stimulation during Time Out:
    • Lack of reinforcing stimuli is the basis of Time Out.
    • Use a specific chair, corner, hallway or other boring place.
  • Duration: 
    • Generally longer durations are not more effective.
    • Use 1 minute per year.
  • Release: 
    • The parent determines the end of Time Out, not the child. A timer on the phone works well for this.
    • Releasing from Time Out is contingent on the child being calm and cooperative. 
  • Response to escape from Time Out: 
    • Parents should have a backup strategy in mind.
    • Viable options include returning to Time Out, loss of other privileges, lessening the time of Time Out so the child is successful in completing the punishment.

Successful implementation of Time Out will make not only this summer, but many summers to come much more pleasant. 

Dr. Judy Moore