7 Most Common Timeout FAQs

Making Timeouts Work For You: Common Timeout FAQs

As noted in last month’s article “The Ten Absolute Timeout Musts,” timeouts work wonders, but only when used properly. To increase the success of  timeouts, Achieve Life Balance collected answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs).

What Behaviors Do Timeouts Work Best For?

Timeouts are considered effective for general non-compliance, verbal and physical aggression, property damage, yelling and similar behaviors.

Are There Age Limits For Timeouts?

Experts don’t exactly agree on set age limitations. The AAP suggests using timeouts for children who are  2 to 5 years old.  Some experts suggest timeouts can start as young as twelve months, but only as a last resort.  If you use timeout on a young toddler, plan to join her.  Simply gather your child in your arms and hold her firmly  until she calms down.  This is considered more of an introduction to timeout.  When it comes to older children (preteens, teens), setting a consequences is often far more effective than sitting silently in a corner.

How Do I Handle Timeouts In Public?

For many parents, timeouts are easier to carry out at home than at a grocery store, church  or other public place. You may need to get creative to find a quiet space.  If you’re at a store and your kiddo is relatively calm,  a shopping cart can act as a portable timeout. However, if he’s screaming  he should be removed so he can’t disrupt others.  In this case,  his car seat may work as a safe and private alternative (while you sit quietly in the front seat).  In some cases, the best solution is to pack up and try again later.

It’s Very Difficult To Ignore My Child During Timeout. What Should I Do?

The answer depends on why you’re struggling.  Does your son easily pull you into an argument? Perhaps it’s hard for you ro avoid communication. Grab a pair of headphones, concentrate on taking deep, calm breaths, or ask another adult to handle the timeout. If timeout is genuinely uncomfortable for you, or your child appears anxious, try one of these timeout twists.

Is Timeout The Only Technique I Should Use?

While it’s important to be consistent (your child should know what actions lead to a timeout), other consequences may fit the situation better. In addition, overusing timeouts can reduce their effectiveness. Parenting workshops can help you learn when and how to use the most effective tactic for each scenario.

Why Won’t My Child Stay In Timeout

Doing everything timeout experts suggest? Consider these possibilities.  Perhaps your child is:

  • New to timeout and doesn’t understand sitting still is required
  • Too young or too active to sit still (This includes potential health reasons that make it difficult to follow timeout rules)
  • Having fun playing chase with Mom and Dad
  • Testing the boundaries of timeout
  • Testing parent’s boundaries
  • Hopeful that Mom/Dad will give up
  • Enjoys the power that comes from frustrating her parents
  • Not affected by timeout. The timeout isn’t that big of a deal to him

Many timeout experts insist kids eventually give up running (if Mom doesn’t give up first)—this means you must keep returning your child to timeout until it sticks. Unfortunately, if you have a runner, timeout can quickly turn into an exhausting battle of the wills. Frustration leads to anger and loss of control—the opposite of effective parenting.

What If Timeout Isn’t Working?

Some children just don’t respond well to timeouts. A child’s personality can have a lot to do with its effectiveness. If you’re using timeouts correctly with little success (research shows more than 80 percent of parents are using timeout incorrectly), changing it up may solve your problem. This could be as simple as adding a “twist” to the traditional timeout or using a completely different disciplinary technique.

Did we miss your timeout question? Contact Susan to add it to the next timeout article.


Susan Graham

My most significant role is as a mom of three. What a wonderful role to have! Parents know balancing it all can be tough. I'm grateful for the amazing tools I've learned as a parent educator. My household runs smoother, is more on task and all with less stress! My kids (even my teens) openly communicate with me, and respect is heavily valued. I'm grateful to share my education with other parents, as well as practice what I preach at Huron Valley Schools as a Parent Involvement Coordinator. I'm currently working toward the 4800 hours required for certification as a Family Life Educator. I share many of these parenting tools and insight at achievelifebalance.org.

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