How do the above help you use Time Out successfully with your children? Read on and I hope I'll explain.
Firstly, let's start with what time out is and how to use it effectively in your family.
Try to think of time out as a cooling off period rather than a punishment for your child. We all know just how frustrated it is possible to be at times and how, even as an adult, it can be difficult to calm down once we are all worked up. Now imagine being a child and being frustrated and possibly angry, but not understanding the feelings that we have. Their response may well be to scream, shout, hit or throw things.
One of the easiest ways for us to calm down if in a difficult or stressful position is to walk away and remove ourselves from the scenario that is making us feel like that. If you follow the theory that a child's behaviour is their response to a situation that they're in at the time removing them from that situation helps them to calm down and hopefully realise that their behaviour was not acceptable.
It's advisable to explain to your child, whilst everyone is calm and happy, what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable to you and to help them to understand what will happen if their behaviour strays into that unacceptable territory. Initially focus on one particular behaviour which you want to be firm about and explain that if they demonstrate this behaviour it will mean time out happening.
Choose a spot for time out and try to avoid sending children to their bedrooms. You want children to feel safe, secure and relaxed and in their rooms, especially at night time, and this may not be possible if they associate it with where they have to go when they are "naughty". Ideally it should be somewhere a bit boring, but still warm and comfortable. Maybe it could be a cushion in the corner of the room, or on the bottom step of the stairs. It may be out of sight of the rest of the family, but also shouldn't be too far away.
It is also good to explain to your children just how long timeout will last. Do remember though that to a small child a minute or two really can feel like an eternity, especially if they're sat there doing nothing. A guideline is to make it no more than a couple of minutes, but this may well depend on the child. Don't start the time out period until the child is calm. Two minutes of them still screaming will not work well and is unlikely to calm them down.
When you actually have to use time out start by giving the child a warning if they exhibit a behaviour that would merit time out: "if you do that again you will have to do time out". If they continue then tell them to go to the time out place. It may be that there are some things where you don't want to give them a second chance and that they should go to time out immediately – this is down to your own family rules.
Once time out is enforced it helps to set a timer of some kind rather than just relying on your own brain to keep track of how long your little one has sat there – especially since our measure of time is so different from a child's. Once the time is up then praise the child for doing time out and initiate "time in" with them, either by going back to what they were doing before time out, or starting a new activity.
It is advisable not to go back over what caused time out in the first place as they may just stir up the same emotions in the child that caused it to be necessary initially. For older children it might be appropriate, but with younger ones it rarely has the desired effect.
So, where does the jam jar, food colouring and glitter come into things?
Making a Time Out Timer
I happened across what was entitled a Calm Down Jar on Pinterest and realised that this would be perfect for time out. All you need is an empty jam jar, some food colouring, glitter and water.
Fill the jar with water and add a couple of drops of food colouring – just enough to colour the water slightly. Then add some glitter, screw on the lid and there you go.
The idea is that if you shake the jar at the start of time out, a child should stay in time out until all the glitter has settled. Watching it do so is actually really relaxing and does help you to calm down too. I took a couple of goes, but I found that you can make it so that the glitter takes around 90 seconds to settle – perfect for a younger child.
I shared the concept with the others in my parenting course group this morning and we all agreed that it would also be a lovely thing to make with your children, possibly whilst discussing the concept of time out and how you were going to use it. It would then also give them some ownership of the process which may well help them understand the concept and not see it as a punishment or something to be feared.
I don't claim to be a parenting expert in any way, but I'm just a mum with two small children finding out what works for me and taking influence from a parenting course at my local children's centre.