Parenting Discipline and Time Outs: Time-Outs for Children, Parents, Toys and Siblings

Time-outs are a popular parenting discipline method that has recently come under scrutiny by some parenting experts. Still, they can be effective in dealing with a child who needs a cooling down period. Here are some time-out variations that can help get you through some parenting challenges.

Traditional Time-out

In parenting discipline, the traditional time-out is the one that millions of viewers see on Super Nanny each week. The parent places the misbehaving child in a predetermined spot, called the “naughty spot”. The parent sets a timer for one minute for each year of the child’s age. For example, a seven year old would get a seven minute time-out. When the time-out is over, the child apologizes and the parent and child hug.

Time-out for Parents

The time-out for parents is a twist on the traditional time-out. Instead of placing the child in a time-out, a frazzled parent that recognizes she is about to snap can remove herself from the situation and take a few minutes to calm down. This is a good time to practice deep breathing exercises. A parental time-out sets a good example for children who need to learn how to take a break when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Toy Time-outs

When children are having trouble sharing a toy and can’t come to an agreement, the toy can be put in its own time-out. The toy is taken out of time-out when the children can negotiate a way to share.

Likewise, toys that are used as weapons are best taken away until the child’s urge to strike with it has passed. Some toys, like toy swords, are far too tempting for little boys. They can’t resist the urge to play fight and end up hitting their siblings and friends. Often when toys swords are taken away, the child can get back into a non-aggressive play mode.

Sharing a special toy can be difficult for some children, especially toddlers and preschoolers. When a child has a friend over, the special toy can become a coveted play object. To prevent disagreements and fights, special toys should be put up before the start of a play date.


A young child that is having difficulty behaving needs some connection time with a parent. A break from playing can be spent with mom or dad in a shared, quiet activity. Reading, cuddling or talking can help relax a child and get him ready to handle more play time.

Separating Siblings or Playmates

When children are consistently having trouble playing together, the only solution is to separate them. This can be inconvenient, but it can prevent the trouble from escalating. Instead of getting into a battle of who did what to whom, simply put the children on opposite sides of the room or in different rooms until they have calmed down. If the children are friends at a play date, this is the time to end the play time and for the visitor to go home. Play experiences should be positive for children and if it isn’t going well, it’s best to end it and try again another day.

Instead of viewing time-outs as a punishment, they can be viewed as a cooling off period for both children and parents. Time-outs teach children how to control emotions and impulsive behaviors and help everyone get along while practicing parenting discipline.

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