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How to Give an Effective Time Out

Updated on June 10, 2019
I Am Rosa profile image

This mom of two has worked with non-profits to provide educational and health programs for local children and improve the local workforce.


"Well, of course the kids love you," I was told with much eye rolling. "They have fun with you. It's not like you have to discipline them!" Um ... I beg to differ. When I'm left in charge of a child, you'd better believe I'm doling out discipline if he needs it. When Auntie Rosa is in charge, the rules are the rules, even if Mom and Dad aren't around to back them up. And, while I may be full of fun, games and outright silliness, I don't fool around when it comes to house rules, manners and proper behaviour. Misbehaviour gets nipped in the bud. Every time.

So, what's the deal? All that strictness and I still get lots of hugs, kisses, and respect from the kids. Maybe it's the way I discipline ....?

My View

Young children have a need for acceptance from their parents and other adults with authority which makes them easy to correct without harsh measures. Simple corrective feedback and praise generally keep a child well-behaved, (Read "How to Encourage Good Behaviour in Children"), however certain situations may call for something more.

Time Out is a useful tool for correcting behaviour in place of harsher disciplines which can emotionally scar a child (and the parent!). Since children are ruled by their emotions, it gives them (and you) time to cool off and step away from the situation so it can be handled in an appropriate manner.

The 8 Steps to Time Out

There are 8 steps for an effective Time Out:

  1. Tell the child that she is going into Time Out.
  2. Firmly, but gently take the child to the Time Out location and sit her down.
  3. Get down to her level and look the child in the eye. Tell her what she has done to put her in Time Out and how long she is to remain there. (The general rule is one minute per each year of the child’s life, up to 10 minutes max.)
  4. Walk away, leaving the child in Time Out. If the child tries to leave, place her back in Time Out, saying, “You are in Time Out.” Then, start the clock again. Do this every time the child tries to leave.
  5. Go about your business until the clock runs out. Do not interact with the child.
  6. When time’s up, return to the child and get down on her level. Tell the child again why she is in Time Out and state that you would like an apology. (If the child was rude or hurtful to someone else, I insist that the child apologize to the other person as well.) If the child refuses or is still misbehaving, start over by letting her know that she is still in Time Out for another 3-5 minutes (be specific) and leave again. Then wait until time’s up and try again. Do this as many times as necessary.
  7. When the child apologizes, let her know she is forgiven (and mean it!). Some parents say, “Thank you” while others say, “I forgive you.” Use whatever works for your family.
  8. Give hugs and kisses, then let her go about her business again.

The last two steps are extremely important. The child needs to know that all is well again and that you are not harbouring resentment or disappointment.

Lastly, it is vital that you keep your cool during this process otherwise things can go “sideways” and Time Out is no longer effective.


Not all children are the same, so results may vary. I always encourage parents to do what works best for their family.

Say "No" when it's needed.  Your future Self will thank you.
Say "No" when it's needed. Your future Self will thank you. | Source


Remember, children need stability. They are happy when the rules are clearly outlined and thrive when those rules are upheld in a consistent manner. Once your children see that you are serious and constant with the rules and discipline, Time Out will rarely be required. They feel safe and trust you more. The best part is that their trust will show in their ability to express their love and affection more freely. What a wonderful gift that is!

Now, go enjoy your children!


Since first writing this article, I've become a mother. This technique still works wonderfully. The bonus is that my children feel more secure when they know there are boundaries and both parents will enforce them.

© 2012 Rosa Marchisella


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