Fact sheet: information on managing behaviors that seek a parent's attention inappropriately


A time-out is an educational (mainly parenting) technique recommended by many pediatrists and developmental psychologists as an alternative to spanking and other traditional forms of discipline. In brief, the idea is to keep the child isolated for a limited period of time, intended to allow it to calm down, learn coping skills and discourage inappropriate behavior. It is also a time for parents to separate feelings of anger toward the child for their behavior and develop a plan for discipline.


Applying the technique

The technique is recommended mostly for toddlers and upwards. For an older child, the parent is advised to explain what kind of misbehavior will result in a time-out and also write down those rules. When implementing the time-out, it is suggested that no arguing should be allowed - that may work counter to the idea behind the time-out, which is to allow the child to calm down. Time-outs are not recommended for frequent use (if it works, improved behavior should make it less necessary), but since they are considered a mild form of discipline they are not always used as a last resort.


It is important to know the motivation of the challenging behavior. If a child throws a tantrum to escape something undesirable, then the time-out can be seen as a positive outcome by the child and the behavior will be reinforced next time.


Guidelines for using time-out

The following guidelines are usually given for time-outs:
Decide what type of behavior warrants a time-out (such as fighting, arguing or throwing tantrums), and try to enforce this fairly and consistently. All adults involved with the child should follow similar guidelines when using a time-out.

Designate a corner (hence the common term corner time) or similar space where the child is to stand during time-outs. Never use their bed.

Use an age appropriate time length for the time-out. For a short time-out, approximately one minute per year of age is reasonable; that time may be doubled if necessary if the child pushes their limits during the time-out.

Have an incentive for completing the time-out without arguing. This may for instance be a loss of a privilege until the time-out has been completed.

The time-out should always have verbal warnings before the discipline to allow the child to make appropriate choices. If their bad behavior continues, they should have an explanation for the time-out as they are being escorted to that area. Even one-year olds understand when they have reached their parental limit, but the explanations should be age appropriate.

Afterwards both the parent and the child should try to leave the incident behind.


using time-out in the classroom

Another outline, which is better suited to the classroom, says:
1. Announce the guidelines to the children periodically. Explain what a timeout is, and demonstrate how it begins and ends.
2. When a child misbehaves, approach it saying, "Time out for X" (where X is the forbidden act, e.g., teasing).
3. Send or bring the child to the time-out place. (Within earshot of the teacher is best.)
4. When time's up, go over to the child and say, "Why did you have time-out?" The ideal answer is, "For X" (e.g., "Because I teased Sally.") If they don't seem to know why they got time out, remind them (briefly).
5. After they are let out of the area, they are to apologize to the victim if there is one.


While some proponents of time-outs insist on silence and stillness from the child during the time-out, others insist that the time-out should allow the child to get anger and frustration out of their system.


Some of those in favor of spanking have argued that time-outs are ineffective. Others argue that it should be seen as a complement rather than as an alternative to spanking; a spanking may be preceded and/or followed by a time-out 'to think about what you did'; some individual often order time-out to be spent divested as during spanking, even exposing the reddened bare bottom afterwards, with the hope of making the punishment more humiliating. As discipline means to teach, no disciplinary technique should be used without the child understanding why the behavior was unacceptable and what behavior is expected.


Counting to Three

One form of this is counting to three as a way to get children to listen to parents the first time. When a child is doing something wrong you say, "That's One". Then wait five seconds. If they are still doing the unacceptable behavior say, "That's Two". Wait five more seconds and say "That's Three, Take Five" or "That's Three, Time Out". Then you put them in time out.


Time out can be their room, a naughty chair or another spot you have designated for this purpose. They stay there for five minutes, or less if they are under five years old. When their time is up and they have calmed down they can come out of the time out area.


Click to shut autism information fact sheet on behavior strategies for attention seeking behaviors

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This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation. It is derivative of an article at http://en.wikipedia.org /Time-out

Tme-out is a parenting technique recommended by many pediatrists and developmental psychologists as an alternative to traditional forms of discipline, that should be effective for children with Asperger's syndrome and autism as well