It turns out, I might not be getting the point of them either.
I was not consistent in my use of timeouts, and that is a mistake that a lot of parents make. Sometimes parents give up on the concept completely, which is a shame, as they are considered to be an effective element of the parental toolkit. Timeouts are so effective, in fact, that the reason we do not see more research done on them is because the research that was already done on them has been so conclusive and thorough, that nobody wants to continue to study them.
But, new parents need to know how to use timeouts correctly, so here is how science tells us that timeouts are effective:
- Timeouts are for 2- to 6-year-olds
- Timeouts should be tied to certain behaviors only - not as a response to all behaviors
- Timeouts should be issued consistently in response to the negative behaviors
- Give one warning (and only one warning) that lets your child know that they will next get a timeout - unless the kid is hitting, then timeout should be the immediate response
- Two to five minutes is plenty
As my son is now six, we've had to move onto the next big item in the parenting toolkit: Removing privileges. I may need to go look up the research on that one, as I am probably doing it wrong, too.
Are you using timeouts correctly? Tell me in the comments.