A Personal Perspective on Child Discipline and Timeouts

Raising well behaved children is not an easy task.  It takes persistence, consistence and a lot of patience. Timeouts are one of the most used and most effective tools for promoting good behavior in children. But not all timeout techniques are created equal.  Some are better suited for certain child temperaments, ages, and situations.  


My Timeout Techniques 

I first started using timeouts when my daughter was two and our child care provider explained to me how she used them in her home daycare. At two, timeouts worked pretty well for my daughter.  I could have her sit in timeout against the wall in the same room I was in and she stayed.  I often had to stay right there to make sure she stayed, but it worked, and the technique did improve her behavior.


Supernanny Timeout Technique

At three this stopped working -- she would not stay in time out anymore, even with me right there -- so I tried some new things.  I followed the method I learned from watching the show “Supernanny.”  Super Nanny tells parents to keep putting the child back on the naughty chair, calmly and repeatedly and without speaking, until the child finally stops getting up and stays in the chair for the full length of time.  Although I tried her technique, it never worked out for us.  To be fair, I did not keep at it for more than 40 minutes at a time.  It was too exhausting for me and it wound up my daughter more and more. It was a fun game for her, no matter how calm and persistent I was.  She was happy because she had my attention, even if she got a bit frustrated at times.


123 Magic Timeout Technique

I decided to try something else and found a book called 1,2,3 Magic.  I read the book and watched the video as well. I really benefited from the ideas in them, not just the parts about using timeouts. But the timeout method in this book was a breakthrough for me.  Her timeouts are now in her room. If she tries to leave the room, I hold the door shut.  This was difficult emotionally for me at first, but it really was the only way I could get her to stay in timeout.

In 1,2,3 magic, a timeout is preceded by counting to give the child three chances to stop the behavior. This method also differs from the Suppernanny method in how the end of timeouts are handled.  Supernanny has parents explain to the child why they were in timeout, and then gives hugs. The advice in 1,2,3 magic is to not say a word.  The timeout is over, the child has done his time, and there is no reason to reiterate why he was there.  He should already know why he was put in timeout in the first place.  If he doesn’t know before he goes in, then the timeout is pointless.  This is just my interpretation of the book as I remember it, but it may not be entirely accurate.  I suggest reading it yourself if you are considering trying the methods in it. I checked a copy out from the library before deciding to purchase my own copy.


Success With Timeouts!

After we switched to this technique, my daughter finally started responding to timeouts better again, and after a few weeks she rarely needed them anymore.  All I had to do was say “that’s one,” and “that’s two,” and she would shape up. Even now, five months later, she only needs a timeout once a week or so, if not less frequently.  For me, my husband and my daughter, this timeout technique has worked well.  It has improved her behavior overall, reduced her crying, and motivates her to obey more consistently.   

I know there are other methods for using timeouts as well.  I recently came across “Positive Discipline,” which uses what they call “positive timeouts.” It sounds like something I’d like to read up on more. But for now, what we are doing works.  With my daughter’s improved behavior my whole family is happier and gets along better. I’m really glad we stuck with it.