Time-out for misbehaving

l What is time-out?

Time-out is a way of disciplining your child for misbehaviour without raising your hand or your voice. Time-out involves removing your child from the good stuff in life, for a small amount of time, immediately following misbehaviour.

Time-out for children is similar to penalties used for ice hockey players.

When a hockey player has misbehaved on the ice, he is required to go to the penalty area for two minutes. The referee does not scream at, threaten, or hit the player. He merely blows the whistle and points to the penalty area. During penalty time, the player is not allowed to play, only watch. Time-out bothers hockey players because they would rather play hockey than watch.

Keep this hockey comparison in mind when using time-out for your child. Children usually do not like time-out because they would rather play than watch other kids play. So when you use time-out in response to misbehaviour, remove your child from whatever he or she is doing and have him or her sit down.

l Where should the time-out area be located?

You do not have to use the same location each time. Just make sure the location is convenient for you. For example, using a downstairs chair is inconvenient when the problem behaviour occurs upstairs. An adult-sized chair works best, but a step, footstool, bench, or couch will also work. Make sure the area is well-lit and free from all dangerous objects. Also make sure your child cannot watch TV or play with toys.

l How long should time-out last?

The upper limit should be one quiet minute for every year your child has been alive. So if you have a two-year-old, aim for two quiet minutes. Keep in mind, children do not like time-out, and they can be very public with their opinion. So it may take some time to get those two minutes.

This is especially true in the beginning when children do not know the rules and still cannot believe you are doing this to them.

For some reason, the calmer you remain, the more upset they are likely to become. This is all part of the process. Discipline works best when you administer it calmly.

So, do not begin the time until your child is calm and quiet. If your child is crying or throwing a tantrum, it does not count toward the required time. If you start the time because your child is quiet, but he or she starts to cry or tantrum, wait until your child is quiet again and then start the time over. Do not let your child leave time-out unless he or she is calm; your child must remain seated and be quiet to get out of time-out.

Some programmes suggest using timers. Timers can be helpful, but are not necessary. If you use one, remember the timer is to remind parents that time-out is over, not children.

l What counts as quiet time?

Generally, quiet time occurs when your child is not angry or upset, and is not yelling or crying. You must decide when your child is calm and quiet. Some children get perfectly still and quiet while they're in time-out.

Other children find it hard to sit still and not talk. Fidgeting and "happy talk" should usually count as being calm and quiet. For example, if your son sings or talks softly to himself, that counts as quiet time. Some children do what we call "dieseling," which is the quiet sniffling that usually follows a tantrum. Since a "dieseling" child is usually trying to stop crying, but cannot find the off switch, this also should be counted as quiet time. -- Time-out Guidelines for Parents, by Patrick C. Friman, on www.parenting.org.