Time to Learn About Time Outs

When used properly, time outs can be a very effective tool to keep in your behavior toolbox!  Time out is an effective way to show your child that they did not make a good choice.
Before you try a time out, it is important to know that there are many strategies  may help to prevent an unwanted behavior from happening in the first place.  When deciding which behavior strategies to use, it is very important to make sure that you are using strategies to prevent problem behaviors from occurring in addition to reacting to the behavior once it has occurred.  This type of balance plan will change behavior most effectively. 
Some very useful strategies to use before a behavior occurs include reminding your child of the rules before starting an activity, teaching your child how to communicate their needs and wants in an appropriate way, replacing the unwanted behavior with an incompatible behavior, and using anger management techniques.  Trying to prevent problem behaviors from happening is important.  However, there will still be times when you will need to show your child that she made a poor choice.  In this case, time outs may be very effective.
It is important to use time outs only when “time in” is fun.  Make sure that you are redirecting the child away from an activity that she will miss.  For example, if your child is swimming in the pool (an activity that he considers very enjoyable) and he hits his brother, time out from the pool would be very appropriate, because he will miss being in the pool.  Essentially you are teaching him that if he doesn’t behave properly in the pool, he cannot have the privilege of swimming.  Another way to ensure that time outs are effective is to have a time out area that is “boring” and relatively free of stimulation.  Time out should not take place in an area with toys or fun objects.
Time outs should be avoided in situations when “time in” will not be missed by the child.  For example, if you are helping your child with homework (an activity he doesn’t find enjoyable) and he engages in an aggressive behavior, a time out may not be the most effective consequence. Instead of seeing the time out as a boring, he may see it as a break from homework.  In this case you might have accidentally reinforced a behavior you wanted to decrease! In situations like these you will have to choose a different strategy.
Here are a few more tips for using time outs effectively:

1) Use a calm voice and demeanor when escorting your child to the time out area.

2) Use a simple phrase, “No hitting. Time out.”

3) When time out is over, do not immediately engage in conversation or give your child too much attention – this may make the time out reinforcing.

4) Do not “over-use” this technique – your child may get used to time outs.

5) If you wish to discuss better choices with your child, you may certainly do so after the time out, but not during the time out.
Good luck!

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