Nanny 911: Give Effective Time-Outs
Without a doubt, the hardest part of parenting is discipline.(We don't need boot camps on how to love our children, right?) Kids' jobs are to push their limits—but it's your job as parents to set those limits. If your child has stepped over that line, say, by breaking a House Rule, you need to teach your child that in your house, and in life, actions have consequences. Your challenge: Learn how to give effective time-outs.
You may have never used a time-out before. But for us Nannies, it's the most effective tool to shape your child's behavior when they are out of control. Time-outs teach children that when they have behaved badly, they need to take a few moments to themselves to sort through their thoughts and feelings. After they've calmed down, then they can talk about those feelings with you. By giving time-outs, you're actually teaching your children patience and responsibility for their actions.
Here are the Nannies' tips for learning how to give effective time-outs:
- Designate a spot. The time-out should always happen in the same place. For children ages 2 to 4, it's best to keep the time-out spot where you can keep an eye on them. Ideally, it should be a hall or a corner, somewhere they can't get into mischief! (Don't use a crib or bed, as those are for sleeping!) Also, never lock your child in a room, as that is scary for a child.
- Give warnings. Never just put your kid in a time-out after a first offense. This is only going to make your kid even angrier. Whether it's the three-strikes-and-you're-out policy or just once, like, "I said no hitting. One more time and you're in time-out," decide which style works for you and stick to it.
- One minute of time-out for each year of age. Trust me, three minutes is a lifetime for a 3-year-old! Time-outs work best after age 2. Any younger and they can't understand the concept. Make sure you use a timer and that it's in plain view of the child. Younger kids will listen for the ding, while older kids who can tell time will feel the effects of time passing slowly.
- No getting up. If your kid physically gets up before the timer goes off, then the clock starts over again. They can fidget, hum, protest all they want, but no leaving the time-out spot!
- Don't give in. No matter how much pleading, begging and crying is going on in front of you, stand firm. Parents must work as a team on this one. As soon as your child realizes that one parent will cave, then the battle of wills is won. And sending mixed messages ultimately confuses the child.
- Don't go overboard. Time-outs should only be used for major rule-breaking. Also, don't combine a time-out with taking away a toy or reward. And don't punish all of your children if just one is acting out. Hopefully, the more you reward good behavior, the less time-outs you'll have to use to raise the well-behaved kids they're destined to be.
- Talk to them afterwards. This is the MOST important step! And so many parents forget to do it! All time-outs need a talk afterward in order to clear the air. Sit down together, ask your child what was going on, what they were feeling. Listen calmly, because again, all your child wants is to be heard and validated.
Happy (OK, not happy, but necessary) time-outing!
And my question to you is: Have you ever put your child in a time-out? What are your rules? Do you think that time-outs are usually effective? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Be sure to check in with your mommy allies on the Child Behavior Message Board. Check out these other challenges:
- Challenge 1: Plan Ahead to Avoid Tantrums
- Challenge 2: Stop Whining & Screaming
- Challenge 3: Say No to Saying No
- Challenge 4: Get Your Kids to Clean Up
- Challenge 5: Reward Good Behavior
- Challenge 6: Establish House Rules
- Challenge 7: Work on Your Most Challenging Challenge
- Challenge 8: Take a Mommy or Daddy Time-Out
- Challenge 9: Give Your Kid Compliments
- Challenge 10: Acknowledge Mistakes and Move On
- Challenge 11: Say Please and Thank You
- Challenge 12: Work on This Week's Most Challenging Challenge
- Challenge 13: Pick Your Battles
- Challenge 14: Be a Better Listener
- Challenge 15: Get Your Kids Talking
- Challenge 16: Keep Your Cool
- Challenge 17: Use a Timer