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Age Appropriate Time Out

Updated on July 19, 2012

The word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’. A disciple follows the older, wiser person out of respect, not out of fear. The word ‘punishment’ derives from ‘punitive’, which means to inflict pain. A punished person who has had pain inflicted upon them usually just gets angry and vindictive at the punisher.

‘Time Out’ is not a punishment, it is a means to teach a child self discipline. Using time out in the proper way will be effective. If it is misunderstood and then misused, it will not work.

Time out use must be location and age appropriate. Let’s start with age appropriate. Between the ages of two and five, the time of the time out should be the same as the child’s age. From five on up, the standard should be fifteen minutes for the run-of-the-mill-rule violation. You can, of course, up the time out time in fifteen minute increments for non-compliance to the directive, and/or up to one hour for more major infractions, with the addition of removal of a privilege for twenty four hours.

The reason to keep the average time out only fifteen minutes is because in effective consequence terms, more time is not necessarily better. In fact, consistency and frequency is far more effective than giving out ever increasingly harsher penalties. In a nutshell, you need to give the smaller consequence more often, and do it the same exact way each and every violation of rules that occurs.


Most adults become numb to the level of noise that children make. We do not intervene until there is screaming, pounding, and growling. Reset your tolerance control knob to “low”. Intervene not just more frequently and consistently, but sooner as well.

Children between two and five should complete their time out within your line of vision. Get a small plastic chair that you will call “the naughty chair”. Take the chair with you when you go places, like relatives or friends’ homes. Only use the chair for “time out”.

Children older than five should go to their bedroom. Yes, I can already hear you saying that because of all the stuff in there, it’s a reward. Well, remember who allowed the T.V. and game system to be in there in the first place? Remember that the point of the time out is not punishment, but discipline. The child is in there to think about what they have done. If they turn on the T.V. or play a game, that’s O.K. The child has been separated from the community, and that is what counts.

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      justine 7 years ago

      They aren't saying 15 minutes for a 2 year old. Did you READ the article? 2 years =2 minutes. 7 yrs plus get 15 mins. And they aren't advocating video games. They're saying that people have given their kids those things.

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      Marilyn  7 years ago

      I agree. What's the point of isolation if I am able to watch tv.

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      Ha 7 years ago

      This is absurd. Fifteen increments for a 2-year-old? Video games for an 8-year-old?

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