Arden (3)

The secret to time-outs that work


When kids misbehave, it’s so easy to say, “That’s it—time-out!” It can become parents’ go-to punishment in any situation.

I saw this in action when an older child hurt my toddler at their house and her dad, angry, punished her with a time-out. As his child sat there in the corner sulking, I was kind of sulking, too. I thought, Wait, I’d like her to come see if my toddler is OK, acknowledge the consequence of her actions, and attempt to make amends (help get out the ice pack, perhaps). As adults, when we hurt someone, that course of action seems closer to what we want to do—and thus teach our kids to do. It wouldn’t quite make sense if, after hurting someone, we immediately parked ourselves in a chair in the corner. I didn’t say anything, of course. I knew her dad wanted to show her (and me) that her behavior wasn’t acceptable to him.

The concept of a time-out isn’t a terrible one. It’s just that the way most of us use them–not only when but how–isn’t terribly effective.

Here’s a better way

Check out this quick slideshow, adapted from Zero to Five. The idea comes from Jane Nelsen’s Positive Time-Out, based on the principles of positive discipline.

Bonus download (PDF of the slideshow for your fridge): How to call a calm-down

“We’ve already seen a positive change in our girls (4 and 2) since we started using it.”
–A mom’s review on Amazon
“The calm down technique is really really good. I’ve been using it a lot since you posted it … it’s very effective and I find it so helpful for myself as well as my daughter. Thank you!”
–A mom’s comment on Facebook



Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.





One thought on “The secret to time-outs that work



  1. Great thoughts! I know that a “Time-Out” often makes things worse with my very spirited daughter! I’ll try the “Calm-Down” technique and see how it works.

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