What to Do When a Child Won’t Stay In Timeout?


I work with families whose children have behavioral issues, and I use a lot of your parenting strategies. I have a case in which I'm not sure what to do. The child is 3 years old and refuses to stay in his room, stand in the corner, or stay in time out. When they put him in his room, he runs back out. This happens over and over, and the parents are worn out. Any advise?


I am so glad you reached out to us to assist you in your work with this family. It sounds like this 3-year-old is doing a great job of pushing the limits and wearing his parents out. Apparently they have used three different time out strategies, but to no avail. Fortunately, there are some other options.

I am wondering if you have introduced the parents to "Alpha Speech." It is important for parents to become masters of inspiring, authoritative speech. By using this type of speech, they convey they are the leaders in the family. They say what they mean and mean what they say which sends the message they can be relied on. They practice the "short and sweet" principle which means the fewer words they use when giving instructions or stating expectations, the more likely the child will obey. They also don't send the child to time out and end their message with "Okay?". It is very important for them to put in the time becoming pro's at Alpha Speech.

Let's take a look at some approaches that you might suggest to them: Find out how much time they are expecting to have the little guy spend in time out. You might have them start with walking the child over to the time out spot and very quickly after they arrive state, "Okay, your time is up." By doing this, the parents send the message that they are in charge.

Let's look at another option: For this you need to know why they are sending him to time out. Is it because they have asked him to do something and he is refusing? In this situation, if he doesn't respond when told to pick up the toys, just let it go. Sounds like they aren't doing anything. It won't be long for him to ask one of the parents for something, such as to go outside and play with him. When this happens they simply respond with "I would love to as soon as you take care of your toys." Both of these approaches allow the parent to remain calm, but firm, which is exactly what an authoritative leader does.

One thing this little guy needs to realize is what we like to call understanding there is a "new sheriff in town". The "new sheriff" says things once, not 50 times. They do what they can, when they can. If this little guy decides to exhibit bad behavior when out in public, the parent waits until they can address it. It is okay to delay the consequence. The parent delivers the consequence at a time that will let the child know they won't get by with this type of behavior again.

I applaud you for your work with families dealing with behavioral issues with their children. You might want to recommend John Rosemond's book "The Well Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works!" to this family. It is full of situations and strategies to address all kinds of behaviors children like to try out on their parents. And it might save these parents from being "worn out" on a regular basis.

Keep up the good work!

Laurel Klaassen
School Counselor/Leadership Parent Coach
Website: https://whoa-thats-good-parenting.teachable.com/
Email: mrs.ks.goodstuff@gmail.com

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