Toss Out Time Out || Parenting Advice

If you are currently using timeouts and they’re working for you, then keep going.  Don’t fix what’s not broken.  But if you’re using them and they’re not working then keep reading.

I’ve never used timeouts nor have I ever taught them.  I see them as a form of avoidance, “You go sit over there as I don’t know what to do with you.”  I find them weak as they don’t really teach any lessons other than how to sit in a chair in the corner.

Here are 2 scenarios, one with timeout, one without:

With Timeout:  Johnny hits Sally with the TV remote because she changed the channel away from his favourite show.  Mom puts him on the naughty chair in the corner for 5 minutes (1 minute for each year of his life).  When the 5 minutes are up she tells him he can get up and has to apologize to Sally for hitting her.  There, done.  A couple of days later he hits Sally again and the process is repeated because Johnny has only been taught that being mean leads to punishment.  He hasn’t been taught how to be nice.  Saying sorry isn’t much of a lesson, it’s just empty words to most kids, and adults.  The real lesson is learning how to treat people well and act appropriately.

My Method:  Johnny hits Sally with the remote control.  Mom takes the remote control away from Johnny and gives it back to Sally telling her she can watch her show.  She then hugs Sally to make sure she’s okay.  She calmly says to Johnny, “Come with me.”  She takes Johnny into Sally’s room and says, “For the next 2 days you are going to make Sally’s bed to make up for hitting her.  When that’s done you can watch your favourite show again.”  Then she walks him back to Sally and explains that he’ll be making her bed and says, “Sally, if you tease him about making your bed, you’ll make his bed instead.  Everyone understand?”  Let’s assume they agree then Mom says, “Now, how about we all play a game?”  Johnny has learned it’s not okay to hit people and how to be nice to people.  He’s also learned that TV is a privilege not a right.  The game at the end is a bonding exercise.  It’s to reinforce good relationships instead of focusing on negative behaviour.

Once a child has been punished you have to let it go and move on in a positive way.  Too often I see parents reminding kids about how rotten they’ve been.  Ugh, what does that do to self-esteem?

Oh and by the way, if Johnny doesn’t make Sally’s bed his favourite show is not allowed.  It’s used not as punishment for being bad, but reward for being good.  It’s in line with my “as soon as method”.

If you want help with this, check out my Coaching Page.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Parenting Advice: Time Out … toss it!


Our grandson is almost 3 years old. Lately he has been throwing things.  Sometime it will be his plate or other things.  His mom and dad talk to him and ask why he has done that and if that doesn’t work they will give him a timeout.

It gets very frustrating especially if you’re in a restaurant.  We just don’t want it to carry on and wonder what his parents should do.  Any suggestions???


I’m not big on timeout as find it a wishy washy punishment with no message.  Make him go pick up what he’s thrown and do some extra little chores related to the toss.  There are now consequences AND a lesson.  A great example of this style of punishment is if a brother hits his little sister.  I’d make him make her bed for a week.  BUT … if she teases him about it, she then has to make his bed for a week instead.  

I almost liked it if my kids acted up as had fun coming up with creative and fun punishments, well, fun for me that is (ha ha).  My poor son … he was late getting ready for school for several days in a row so I warned him if he was late again he’d regret it.  Sure enough, he was late again so I put a sign up on the car window that read “Gassy son on board” all the way to school.  He was never late again.  

Mind you, I would never have done that to my daughter as she would’ve been mortified.  Humiliation is just cruel.  My son has my wicked sense of humour so was a different ballgame with him.  

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach