A crash course

ready for

A successful time-out session takes planning. You’ll have to think ahead about:

  • Location
  • Rules
  • Rehearsing

Let us explain.


The best location, by far, is one that’s safe and also really boring. No toys, no games, no fun stuff. Common places include the corner of a room, a chair placed away from the action, or a hallway. Work with the space you have, but the most important thing is that time-out should be where there are no fun things happening.

Safety First

Whichever area you choose, make sure that you’ve removed things that can be thrown or easily broken. Also, ensure that the windows aren’t able to be slipped through.


Decide exactly how time-out works in your house.

How Long?

Until they’ve calmed down and are quiet for around 2 minutes.

How do they get out?

By being calm and quiet.

How does time-out get extended?

Any yelling, talking or other noise starts the 2-minute timeframe all over again.


Run through the time-out game plan with the entire family. Parenting is a team sport and this can actually be a playful exercise.

To start, make sure everyone knows the time-out location and rules. This is important. Choose one family member to play the misbehaving child and do a run through of time-out, so your child knows exactly what to expect the first time you use it.

Let children know which behaviors will lead to time-out, whether it’s aggression, breaking house rules or simply not doing as they’ve been told. Other siblings should be told not to interact with the child in time-out, as to not give them extra attention.

Can I hug my child at the end?

Just calmly tell the child they can return. We don’t want to teach children that misbehaving will lead to hugs.

What if they refuse to come out of time-out?

Calmly say they can come out when they’re ready and leave them to it.

What if they refuse to stay in time-out?

You’ll need to return the child to time-out, every time they leave. You might also need to add on additional time, perhaps 2 minutes again, until they fully complete it.


  • Keep a record of how many times you use time-out and how long it takes your child to get the 2 minutes of quiet. It may take a long time on the first or second try, but this should quickly get better over time. Your record of time-out will let you know if the strategy is effective (the misbehavior is decreasing). You should find that your need to use time-out will decrease with time.
  • Do not talk to your child when in time-out or remind your child of the rules. Time-out works best if your child gets no attention when in time-out.
  • Do not let your child decide when to come out of time-out. Time-out works best when controlled by the parent.
  • If you’ve given your child an instruction to start doing something and they don’t — time-out is appropriate. And once they finish time-out, it’s important to repeat your original instruction again. If the child doesn’t follow your instruction a second time, the child will need to go back to time-out. Over time, using time-out for not following instructions should result in better behavior and a calmer home.
  • Time-out works best when there’s a lot of ‘time-in’. That is, lots of praise, rewards and quality time. Without lots of ‘time-in’, parents often find that time-out is less effective.