Time-out works partly because children dislike it too much and it is even very boring. They would much prefer to be playing with toys or friends than having to remain quiet in one spot with nothing to do. Minutes can drag on them and seem to them like years, because they do not make time-out short. Some parents key to their youngster’s age –a minute of time-out for each year of his life. For toddlers, thirty seconds is often sufficient.
So that your youngster will know when time-out is up, you might set a kitchen timer and tell him that if he sits quietly until the buzzer sounds, he can get up and leave; otherwise, time-out will be extended another minute. If he is an older child, you can tell him that he may go when he himself decides that he can control his behavior. Once time-out is over, announce gently that the child is free to return to his activity. If you have put the youngster in time-out for his failure to comply with your directions and if, after time-out, you repeat the command and he still refuses to obey, put him in time-out again. When he does comply, jump at the first opportunity you get to demonstrate your pleasure in his modified behavior.
Time-out can be used on children who misbehave together. Follow the same procedure as you would for a single child, but separate the youngsters and place them where neither can see each other. Time- out may also be used with a toy to teach a lesson. It works well when two children are feuding over a plaything. Just pick up the toy, say that you are putting it away and then place it where they can see it but not get at it. You can tell them that the toy is in time-out and they will get it later, when they indicate that they are willing to share it. The beauty of the time-out is that you can take it with you anywhere and everywhere. But whatever you do when you are away from home, do not leave your youngster alone.