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A Kinder "Time-Out" That Really Works

Traditional time-outs rely on the "crazy idea that to make children do better, we must first make them feel worse." This can be especially harmful for children with ADHD, who often rebel against this old-school discipline strategy. Improve your child's behavior — and his self-esteem — by introducing him to new, improved time-outs.

6 Comments: A Kinder "Time-Out" That Really Works

  1. I’ve found quite a bit of what I’ve read this issue to be consistent with what we’ve found with our child (who has extremely severe ADHD), but I started hyperventilating a little after reading this one. We did try strategies like this for our child as did their school, but we’ve found that not having a definitive, immediate, clear consequence only caused our child to severely escalate their behaviors and to repeat them multiple times a day (hence my hyperventilating — those behaviors are not fun). At our house it only took a few days of using the 1-2-3-time out or choice of a different consequence (loss of privilege), to see the extreme behaviors largely stop. I think because we’d set a precedent at home, it took one time at school for the extreme behaviors to stop there. We’ve actually found the 1-2-3-time out to be amazing. Our child is making choices to stop their behaviors before time out, or to choose an immediate time out or a different one later (usually a worse one) — which we praise. In the time out, our child can play in their room. We’ve also provided and modeled several other strategies they can use to calm down. This, coupled having a clear structure to the day and setting expectations like “if you do this now, you can do this privilege later” has been amazing.

  2. I am curious if the person who developed this actually lives with an ADHD child on a daily basis. This would NEVER work in our house. My husband and have put into practice many techniques with our son and ourselves ranging from things we have read in books to PCIT with a counselor. We had a laugh out loud at this plan. However, I am happy for those of you have children capable of this!

  3. We use something similar. On the surface, it is exactly the same as a timeout however the reasoning and implementation is slightly different.

    The main difference is that the “down-time” is not a punishment but rather a 5 min break where the person is simply asked to please calm down.

    It can be initiated by either a child or parent whenever the situation starts to get out of hand. The child can initiate it towards themselves or towards parents who are showing their frustration. In my opinion it sets a great example, when a child asks a parent to calm down and the parent respects the importance of remaining calm by excusing themselves for 5 minutes. This can be a teaching moment for your child as they are shown that respect goes both ways.

    Once it is called, (we have a unique code word), all discussion about the argument/disagreement stops. The discussion can not be restarted until after the down-
    time. The discussion is effectively paused or placed on hold until everybody is calm.
    From a parents perspective the focus switches immediately, “We are not discussing this until after your down-time”.

    One of the most important parts of getting this to work, is that the child has to say in a relatively calm voice when they are ready to begin their down-time. Only then does the 5 min timer get started. If they are throwing a tantrum, that is fine. The only response necessary is “Let me know when you are ready to begin.”

    After the time is up, a discussion can be restarted calmly if necessary, but often times when cool heads prevail, the original argument disappears.

    1. In our case the parent can ask:” Do you need some down-time”, but they cannot tell a child to go to down-time. We use this to teach the child self-regulation. We do not put a time on it either, as the child needs to be able to decide, when they are ready to talk. We use the same for parents, they can say they need down-time before something is discussed. When both parties are ready, they can talk about it or chose not to. The only thing is that there is a designated down-time spot for the child and another for the parent. The child can read, play music or do anything they like (avoid video games) in order to help them calm down. This is a reward system for trying to control themselves.
      If the child refuses to calm down we use time-out. Time-out is in a different spot not to confuse the child. This is a mild punihemnt with max 5 minutes. One needs a stronger deterrent, should the child not go to time-out or the situation escalates. Eventually the down-time wins out. The children are very proud of their success to control themselves. It does however, take some time before this happens.

  4. The new “Time-out” we refer to as “Down-Time”. It works very well. It does take some time for kids to learn it, but it works better than the old Time-Out. We actually teach time-out as well for non-compliant behaviour. Of course you need to know what is ADHD and what is non-compliant. It is very important that you lead/coach your child toward a successful life. Kids with ADHD can learn to become accepted by reducing the ADHD-behaviour. Stigma seems to be the child’s biggest obstacle, we need to coach them toward better behaviour to reduce the stigma toward individual children. It can be difficult, but the rewards are worth it.

  5. Please provide references to the individuals cited in the article who state that time outs don’t work, and that giving kids a choice works better. There are many “good” ideas floating around out there that have never been studied. Please show the research!

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