A variation on time-out

Time Out is one of the most effective behavior techniques you can use with children. Although most doctors recommend Time Out for aggressive behaviors such as hitting or biting, parents sometimes overuse Time Out by choosing this punishment for just about any infraction their children commit. There are a number of behaviors that children exhibit during the day that are bothersome, but do not reach the level where a person could get hurt or something might be broken. In this instance, it is helpful to use a lesser punishment, which I call Time Off. Time Off is an action that grows out of what psychologists call “I” messages, i.e., “I don’t like it when you…” The types of actions that Time Off helps control include annoying behaviors such as teasing or being disrespectful. 

The difference between Time Out and Time Off is the following: In Time Out, the child has to sit in a specific location for one minute per year of age. If the child talks or gets up, the “clock” is reset and Time Out starts over. In Time Off the child has to go somewhere else in the house and must stop the behavior that led to the punishment. There is no set time, but the child cannot come back until he is ready to act normally. As a further incentive to get children to comply with the punishment, children who do not follow the rules of Time Off will subsequently have a full-fledged Time Out. 

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2 comments on “A variation on time-out

  1. MoDad says:

    What age group is this applicable to? I’m thinking less effective after 12.

    • You are correct. Time-out is a behavior strategy for younger children. It’s best used for aggressive behaviors such as hitting, biting, etc. Kids twelve and older should be disciplined in a different manner, such as setting up negative consequences for inappropriate behavior. Dr. Thomas Phelan, who wrote the classic book, “1-2-3 Magic” for dealing with two to twelve year olds, has a book for older kids that you should consider. The title is “Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds.”

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