Teachers can’t spank, so how do they manage behavior in a room of 20-40 students at a time… What’s their secret? Teaching time-outs. Think about time-out as an opportunity to teach, like a coach uses timeouts in a sports game. Players freeze, they create a new plan, and execute it in hopes of a more favorable outcome for the team.
Once time-out is initiated, the child goes to a designated area to reflect on behavior and create a plan to use next time. Use this behavior plan as an opportunity to teach. Keep these things in mind:
- Focus on current behavior, not past behavior
- Hold the child accountable to the plan (s)he made
- Teach calm-down strategies like breathing or screaming into a pillow
- Teach ways to ask for help
- Address the behavior not the child. For example: Hitting is not nice VS You are mean
- Teach appropriate ways to communicate thoughts and feelings
- Role play to practice better behavior
Choose a phrase or saying that will always be used as the signal for calling a time-out. Some favorites are “Uh oh.” “That’s not cool.” “Bummer.” and “That is so sad.” Choose one and stick to it! Say it in a sing-song voice to make the signal easily recognizable. This will be used as your referee whistle, or signal, that time-out has been called.
Teaching Time Out!
- Give signal. “Uh-Ohhhhh.” [keep calm]
- Child moves to the designated area for reflection, not as punishment
- Using a timer is optional, creating a plan and calming down are not
- Do NOT talk to the child unless they are ready to discuss a new plan- no negotiating, explaining, arguing, NOTHING! Not a word.
- The plan can be communicated by words, pictures or writing
- Briefly talk with your child to review the plan and teach when needed
***Be sure to find opportunities to praise your child for demonstrating correct behaviors and following the plan as soon as possible and frequently!
The key is patience and consistency.
More severe behaviors may require a parent time-out to avoid emotionally charged reactions. It’s wise to take time to think before you act. Take a time-out and teach instead of punish.
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