How you can use a time-out to help your child learn


We’ve all heard of time-outs for children. When a young child misbehaves, the parent sends them to “time-out” to sit quietly, calm down, and collect their thoughts. However, critics say that time-outs can cause kids to feel even more distressed than they already are. They also believe that the shame they feel for being a “bad” child decreases their ability to learn from the experience.

However, negative outcomes to time-outs occur when the parent approaches the punishment with anger, harshness, and shaming. When you give kids and parents the chance to cool off separately, it can be helpful to the relationship.

Cooling off can be helpful

Many professionals suggest implementing a “time-in”, an action that allows the parent to physically comfort their child when there is a problem. However, some children hit, bite, kick, and scream when they are out of control, making it difficult for them to even accept comfort from their parent. Parents get pushed to their limit when this happens as emotions become sky-high. Yes, parents are typically held to a higher standard than kids during conflict, but any parent will tell you that this doesn’t always happen. There are many times that we simply need a physical break from our kids.

If this is the situation, then giving the child a time-out is often the best parenting strategy. As long as it is done calmly and lovingly, the child and parent will both have the chance to calm down and regain control of the situation. They can then work towards a solution together when they are feeling calmer.

Creating a safe place

Some households have created a safe place in their homes that anyone can use when they need it. Parents can include their children when designing this area, which also has the added benefit of giving the child a sense of empowerment and achievement. The safe place can have items that will calm the child down when they are in the middle of a temper tantrum, such as a favorite pillow or stuffed animal. When the child is misbehaving or acting up, parents can take them to the safe place to calm down. They can let the child know that they will be ready to play when they are relaxed and quiet. Parents can even utilize the safe space when they are frustrated or angry. As long as the separation is done with love and support, a time-out in a safe space can be a caring way for everyone to relax.

Choose the best time limit for the child

Some parents choose to allow their child to come out once they are calmed down. Others set a timer for about three to five minutes. When the timer is up, they check in with the child to see how they are feeling. By this point many kids are calm enough to accept being comforted. Parents can then help them move on from the problem calmly and lovingly. This method isn’t giving in to the child; instead, it is allowing them to calm themselves down in a safe place.