How to Time Out: Effective Implementation of a Time Out

Time outs were created as a form of punishment for children. However, time out is now being used in many different ways to help people learn and grow from their mistakes. This article will discuss some practical strategies and techniques to use time out effectively with your child or anyone else who needs it.


What exactly is a Timeout?

Time outs, sometimes known as suspensions, are a behavior modification strategy that allows a person or a child to step away from their current situation to regain composure. A time out is often used when children or adults have lost control of themselves due to anger or frustration. Adults have similar needs for timeouts. They may need to walk away from a frustrating situation or be alone in their office with the door closed before they can come back and deal cooperatively with difficult people. Here are some effective techniques that will help guide you through timeout implementation for your child or any individual.

Identify the behaviors that warrant a timeout

When using time out, it is crucial to identify the behaviors that warrant a time out. These triggers could be tantrums, angry reactions towards others, following poor directions, and poor listening skills. These are just some common examples. Try to determine what behavior needs to be modified in your child or whoever else needs a behavior modification strategy for their specific situation! Generally speaking, if the child starts yelling at other people in anger or frustration or hurtling a remote controller to the wall, it’s definitely time to implement a quick timeout.

Identify how long

Identify how long each child can handle themselves before needing a break from the time out. A child can typically handle a maximum of three minutes in the timeout area before they start to become angry and lash out. Time out should only be used as a cooling down period to regain composure, not as a punishment. A child’s age matters, so keep that in mind! Sometimes, It might take a few trials and error to find the perfect timeout duration; this will vary depending on age, maturity level, and specific issue that needs to be resolved.

Set up your time outs in advance

Once you have identified the behaviors causing trouble and figure out how long you should hold the child in their timeout, Set up your timeouts in advance. Know what you’ll do if your child doesn’t comply (i.e., remove them from the situation, move to another room), but don’t be so quick to follow through such that you’re pushing your child’s buttons-things should be natural.

Again, many parents wait until they’re experiencing a stressful situation to figure out what they’ll do if their child misbehaves, and by then, it’s too late. Think about how you can adapt the timeout strategy so that everyone stays calm during this process. With particularly defiant children, though, take them into another room.

Give children warnings before giving them a timeout

Give children warnings before giving them a timeout. This way, children will know when they are about to lose their privileges to adjust accordingly. Although, if your child is having a major tantrum in public and you need to remove them from the situation immediately, do not give any warning. Just pick up your child before anybody gets hurt, or someone’s property is damaged! Generally speaking, though, it should be obvious when one needs to use time out with their children. Again, try implementing different techniques into each timeout session. Every time they leave time out, they have learned something new about themselves or better handle certain situations throughout life.

Be consistent with implementing a timeout

Be consistent with implementing a timeout. This act will ensure that your child knows the exact thing they’re supposed to do and how long they have to be in timeout. If you let them out early or extend their time, it won’t deter future problems. So make sure every session is on track. Make sure everyone who deals with a child regularly uses a consistent timeout strategy instead of each person coming up with different ways of doing things which can lead to confusion or more misbehavior from children.

Give yourself permission

Permit yourself to feel frustrated and exhausted – this will pass. You can do it! Time out is very difficult for parents because it takes a lot of practice and discipline to get through this process, but know that your hard work will pay off in the long run. Remember not to take things personally, though – sometimes children act up because they are tired, hungry, or overwhelmed, so keep these factors in mind! If you find yourself getting frustrated while utilizing timeout with your child(ren), remember that everyone gets frustrated every once in a while; don’t be too hard on yourself if you lose control over your emotions when dealing with misbehavior from kids. Take deep breaths throughout the entire timeout session instead of yelling at them or giving in to their demands.

Use positive reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement when appropriate. This practice will help create a positive effect on your child’s behavior so that they do not have to deal with any timeout sessions in the future! If you are using punishments, it is essential to supplement them with plenty of praise and encouragement each time they behave appropriately.


If you have followed these steps correctly and your child or whoever still cannot calm down after two more attempts at using this behavior modification strategy, then chances are something else may be wrong. It could be anything simple as not eating right before bedtime so check all areas of concern. If everything has been checked off properly, though, yet the person continues to lash out even with reasonable timeouts, maybe some outside help is needed. You can consult a professional who may advise medication or other treatment options to ensure that your child’s behavior problems are correctly understood and taken care of in an effective manner.


The CDC. (2021). Time out. Retrieved from;


Last Updated on September 19, 2021