When Your Child Needs a Little Time Out

We’re a family who has a “time out” stool in our home. It’s a place where we send our kids when they need a little time out. It might be time out from their siblings, friends, or an activity, most often times when they’ve done something bad. It helps them, and me, calm down. Here’s a few things I think are important to do if you choose to have time out for your children.

1. Where is time out going to be? It’s important to establish a permanent place for time out. It could be on a chair or stool, in the hall or in the kitchen. I feel it’s better to keep it outside of the child’s room, so that they don’t fear or have bad feelings towards their room or bed. We use this gray stool and place it in the hall. It’s just something generic. It could be cute and crafty, but there’s not really anything cute and crafty about being in trouble or time out. It’s serious time, (mom means business) so I like it to be a place where they are away from any distractions.

2. Let them sit alone. Give them time to be there, even if it’s just 30 seconds for a small child. My 2 year old (yes, we put our 2 year old in time out) can be there for 20-30 seconds. She gets up sometimes, but we just put her back down. For my older children, we let them sit there for a couple of minutes (or longer if I forget, opps!) It’s as long as it takes for them to calm down from being mad or sad.

3. We talk about why they are there. Once they’ve calmed down, we just talk. I ask them why I put them in time out in the first place. Sometimes they don’t know, so I tell them. I think it’s important for children to know the reasons. In some situations, we talk about how they might feel if it was reversed. “How would you feel if Sarah hit you?” Or “Would you like it if Sarah took your toy?” This can help them see things in a different perspective and hopefully think twice about doing it again next time.

4. Saying more than just “I’m sorry”. I feel it’s important for our kids to say what they are sorry for. Here’s our dialogue: “I’m sorry” “You’re sorry for what?” “I’m sorry for _______”. I think this can put more meaning behind the apology.

5. Always end with a hug. After we’ve talked and they’ve apologized, to me and/or the offended, then we hug it out. It’s always good to have closure to an event, especially if it was traumatic, even semi-traumatic, and a hug always does the trick.

Having “time out” has been something good for our family. Our children have been able to put things into other people’s perspectives, as we’ve always talked about what they did and what they are sorry about. It doesn’t mean they are perfect, they still spend time on that stool, but they are able to go through this process with a little more understanding.

What has worked for you when your child has needed a “time out”?

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