Timeout techniques for older children

Finding the discipline techniques that work for you and your child can be challenging. When children hit toddlerhood, timeouts tend to be the go-to for discipline. Once they get older, parents may shift to other techniques (like taking away electronics) but timeouts can still be helpful.

Both adults and children can benefit from removing themselves from certain situations. It’s helpful to have a few minutes to breathe and recenter and that’s what a timeout is designed to do. Plus, it’s a skill your kiddo will use for the rest of their life. 

Some space gives kids the chance to calm down, learn that there are consequences to their actions, and reflect on what happened to put them in timeout. Here are some guidelines and techniques for handling timeouts.

Why timeout? 

Timeouts can be used for a number of reasons, including breaking up fights, teaching a lesson, or calming down your child when they have a temper tantrum. Timeouts are a great way to help your child learn from their mistakes because it gives them the time and space to reflect. 

Do’s and Don’ts

When using a timeout, it’s important that you set clear expectations about what behavior is expected. It’s also important to make sure that the timeout is not too long or too short, as this can make it less effective. Generally, a timeout should last between one and five minutes, depending on your child’s age. Make sure the environment is calm, quiet, and safe. Remove distractions or anything that could be seen as a reward like a tablet, toys, or snacks. This will allow your kiddo to think about what led to the timeout and will help them reflect on it. We know it’s hard, but try to avoid giving your kiddo any attention while they’re in timeout, as it could reinforce the negative behavior. 

Learning a valuable lesson

At the end of the timeout, talk to your child about why they were in timeout and have them explain to you why their behavior was wrong. This helps to reinforce the lesson and will help them come to their own understanding about why they were in timeout. If they know they need to discuss this with you after each timeout, they’ll hopefully be encouraged to take their reflection time seriously. 

Take the proper time to explain why they were put in time out and don’t be vague. Being specific can help them understand specifically what behavior was not acceptable and how they can improve in the future. .After the timeout, your kiddo may be feeling a bit sensitive. Remind them that even though they misbehaved, you still love them, and give them an encouraging hug when they leave timeout.

Overall, timeouts are an effective way to discipline older children. By setting clear expectations, using appropriate time limits, and discussing the behavior afterward, you can help your child learn important lessons about proper behavior. Giving your kiddo the space and time to calm down, and realize what they did wrong is the ultimate goal of a timeout.


“Guidelines for Using Time Out with Children and Preteens.” Child Development Institute. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/school-age-children-development-parenting-tips/guidelines-for-using-time-out-with-children-and-preteens/.

Morin, Amy. “How to Reduce Behavior Problems With Time-Outs.” Verywell Family. January 31, 2021. https://www.verywellfamily.com/manage-behavior-problems-with-time-out-1094753.

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