Tweak your Timeout

Tweak your Timeout


  1. Are you having constant power struggles with your TOT?
  2. Is she having tantrums which in your opinion feel worse than before?
  3. Do you use the ‘traditional’ timeout method in your home?

If you answered yes to these questions then read on, read on! You’ll be glad you did – I promise it will be a game changer.


The traditional timeout has the effect of punishing the child rather than teaching the child. A child under the age of 3 doesn’t understand words in the same way as grown – ups do, nor does he have the ability to sit and think about what he has done in the way you would imagine. For young children, between 3-6, the reasoning mind is still emerging and often a child is well into his 7th year of life before he truly has the ability to sit down and consider his actions.


Often, the action which led to the time out being imposed in the first place has arisen because your TOT is either feeling frustrated or emotional. Toddlers are still learning to cope with their frustrations and emotions. Whilst they have physical, cognitive and emotional limitations, they also have a natural impulse towards exploration, no fear or boundaries and sometimes when they can’t quite achieve what they set out to, they feel upset. When a human being, grown -ups and children alike, is feeling frustrated or emotional, his brain doesn’t function as well. In such circumstances a child may behave inappropriately or have a tantrum.


So when you say “that’s it, go to your room for 5 minutes, and think about what you’ve done”. Just consider for a moment; that what your child really hears is this: “I don’t want to be around you when you are upset”. He feels rejected, discouraged and starts to think that he must be bad. When really he needs acknowledgement of his feelings and some loving guidance giving him the opportunity to practice handling his frustrations and emotions.


“Children do better when they feel better”. (Jane Nelson, Positive Discipline Series, 2015 Harmony Books, New York). It’s true. Use time outs to help your child feel better, and not to punish him. Here is how:


  1. Decide on a cool off spot. Include your child in the process of deciding where his/her cool off spot should be, perhaps he/she has a favourite chair? Or you might have a low window seat he might like to sit on and look out at the view…. If your child isn’t developmentally ready to help you pick a spot then he/she is too young for the use of a time out.
  2. When the inappropriate behaviour occurs calmly offer your child the option to go to the chosen spot and stay in close proximity. Your child is upset, above all else he needs to feel love and a strong connection at this moment to grow into an adult who has a healthy sense of self.
  3. As an example, you could say something like “I can see you are not feeling good right now, would you like some time to sit in your favourite chair so you can feel better? Would you like me to come with you? We can sit together.” Or, for a child that prefers to know you are nearby but doesn’t need you to be sat right next to him, you could say something like “I can see you are not feeling good right now, would you like to lay on your bean bag in the living room until you feel better, I’ll be right here for a hug if you would like one.”
  4. For some children, once they are feeling better, it is as simple as moving on with the day, without mentioning what happened. Other children may wish to address what happened later on. You will get a sense of which your child prefers as he/she grows, neither approach is right or wrong.

Monkey see, Monkey do. The best tool for teaching a young child about anything is to model the behaviour. This is no exception. When you aren’t feeling so good, explain to your child that you need to cool down for a few minutes and invite him/her to accompany you if he/she would like to. Seeing how you deal with your frustrations and emotions will go a long way towards teaching your TOT how to deal with his own.

One Comment on “Tweak your Timeout

  • Bablofil
    May 2, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks, great article.

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