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When a Child Refuses to Go to Time-Out

The way you manage a child who refuses to go to time-out depends on the age and size of your child. For children up to five or six, it is acceptable to pick them up and put them in time-out. Be careful not to hurt your child or yourself. If your child will not stay in time-out, hold the door closed from the outside. Some parents have to do this at first.

Holding a door closed is an intense physical drain. You may feel terrible. Both parents should take turns or have another adult nearby to call on for assistance. It makes more sense to hold the door closed for a few minutes than give in. While you are holding the door closed, it is essential that you remain calm, in control of yourself and the situation. Occasionally remind your child with a calm voice, "As soon as you sit quietly, I will start the timer." If you are uncomfortable with this technique, try the next idea.

With older children or younger children who are too strong to control physically, you need a different approach. When your child refuses to go to time-out, wait a minute and ask again. If you are finding yourself getting angry, walk away and cool off for a few minutes. Do not argue or yell.

Give Your Child a Minute to Think
It is all right to give your child a minute to think about what is going to happen next. "Before this goes any further, think about what it will mean. You are going to lose your bike. You will still have to serve your time-out. I am not going to argue with you. It's up to you. Why not do your time and get it over?" Sometimes children make poor decisions. Give them a minute to think. They may realize that ten minutes in time-out is better than a long hassle.

Take Away the Treasure
If your child refuses to go to time-out after your second request, it's time to go for something treasured. Take away the privilege or activity or toy that is most loved by your child. If possible, choose something that you can lock up or put away. Things like bicycles, CD players, computers, video games, televisions, stereos, and movies on video work well. I do not know what your child's favorite plaything is, but you do. Whatever it is, that's what you lock up. The treasure goes to time-out.

If your son treasures riding his bicycle, and he refuses to go to time-out, lock up his bicycle. Keep it locked until he completes his ten minutes of time-out. (Add five minutes to the original five minutes because he did not cooperate.)

Some children will push you to the limit every time, hoping you will give in. They will never go to time-out until you go for the bicycle. By the time you lock up the bicycle, they have done the ten minutes. Then you have to go unlock the bicycle. You can be manipulated by this type of arrangement. If you have a loophole in your plan, your children will find it.

You can correct this situation by keeping the bicycle locked until twenty-four hours after your child serves the time-out. If your child starts the time-out when you lock up the bicycle, return the bicycle in twenty-four hours and ten minutes. If your child waits two hours to serve time-out, return the bicycle twenty-four hours after that. You may have to add that he is on full restriction until he regains his bicycle.

This backup strategy works well. Do everything you can (except argue and get angry) to convince your child that serving five or ten minutes is better than losing his bicycle for a day. Once you start taking privileges away, the misbehavior may escalate because your child wants to get even.

If you anticipate that your child may refuse to go to timeout, then discuss the backup procedures when you first explain time-out.

Greg: "What are you going to do if I won't go to time-out?" Dad: "We will lock up your bicycle. You will get your bicycle back when you do your timeout." Mom:"If that doesn't convince you, then we will have to do something else, like locking up your bicycle for a whole day." Greg:"But that's not fair." Dad: "Well, Greg, as I said before, the choice is yours. We hope we never have to lock up your bicycle. We hope it never happens. But that is what we will do if we have to. That's a promise."

Whatever backup plan you come up with, be sure that your child's refusal to go to time-out costs your child an inconvenience, not you. Do not threaten backup punishments that cost you more than they cost your child. Do not say, "We cannot go out for dinner until you do your time-out." This gives your child control over you and the entire family.

Many parents are confused about taking a privilege away as a backup for time-out. Why not lock up the bicycle from the beginning and forget time-out? Time-out is something that is short and easy to administer. It is something that makes punishment easier for you in the long run. Time-out is easier than locking up the bicycle several times a week. If you take too many privileges away, your child may become discouraged and then give up trying to improve his behavior.

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From How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!. Copyright © Sal Severe, 2000. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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