The art of timeouts

Mar 15, 2014, 5:41 PM | Updated: 5:41 pm

Have you ever retreated to your room for a self-imposed timeout? I have. When I feel I'm on the edge of my sanity, I excuse myself, run to my room and enjoy a little quiet time to compose myself.

Kids are no different.

Often at the end of our rope, we shout, “You're in a timeout!” Doing so makes this a punishment rather than an opportunity. They sit in a corner and plot revenge, getting even more worked up than when they went into their timeout. Sometimes kids get so wound up they just need a chance to calm themselves, regroup, and center themselves.

By taking the focus off of their wildly energetic bodies and into a more cerebral setting, we teach them useful coping skills. They need to learn ways to calm down and cope with stress. Those who grow up without these skills often end up abusive to themselves or others. When your child DOES need to be punished, here are some tips on how to handle the process.

Here are some creative ways to give children a good timeout:

  1. The glitter bottle. Take a two-liter bottle or large water bottle and remove label. Fill it 3/4 full with hot water. Add a bottle of glitter glue and a small cylinder of glitter. Shake it and work it until it takes about 5 minutes for glitter to settle. The more glitter glue, the slower it will settle. The more water, the quicker it will. Super-glue the cap on to prevent mishaps. When a child needs a timeout, shake the bottle and put them in a quiet place until the glitter settles. This is mesmerizing and extremely soothing.
  2. The rice bowl. Take a large mixing bowl and add about a pound of uncooked rice. Now throw in about 20 small objects. I like to use buttons, pennies, small nuts and bolts, rings, bottle caps, anything small and safe to handle. Mix thoroughly. Blindfold child and have him find all 20 objects. This takes a great deal of concentration.
  3. Warm bath. Draw a warm bath and put in a few soft toys. Give them 10 minutes to relax, unwind and be alone (with discreet supervision).
  4. Pet therapy. Have a lap dog or a cuddly cat? Let the child spend a few minutes in a quiet room telling the animal what's on their mind. Tell them to pet the animal 100 times (if they can count). If they can read, tell them to read the animal a story.
  5. Story time. Join your child in timeout with a good book. Sometimes a little one-on-one does the trick. This is not a reward for bad behavior. It is simply a chance to calm down.
  6. Warm drink. Give them a cup of cocoa, warm milk with a little cinnamon and vanilla, or herbal tea. Tell them to sip it slowly and until they finish it. Nothing soothes the soul like a nice warm cuppa.
  7. Except maybe music. Put on a nice piece of classical music, dim the lights, and tell them to breathe deeply in through the nose, out through the mouth. Time the piece according to how long they need to chill.
  8. Cloud watching/stargazing. Weather permitting, tell them to lay in the grass and watch the clouds or the stars. Have them find designs, shapes, animals and other creations using their imagination.
  9. Safe place. A good friend of mine has a place in her room by the large window. There she has place a blanket, some comfy pillows, and a few soft, imagination-promoting toys. She calls it the safe place. When she asks her children to go there, they don't seem to mind at all. It is a little haven in the grown-up room where they can go and collect themselves. You could do this anywhere — a closet, an office, space under the stairs or a pantry.
  10. Guided imagery. This is a one-on-one timeout. Take the child to a quiet place and have them sit in a relaxed position and close their eyes. Ask them where they want to go to relax. Then talk them through it. If it's the beach, use descriptive language to tell them about the walk in the warm sand, the salty smell of the water, the warm sun on their face. Wherever they want to go on their mini-vaca, take them there through words.

We all need timeouts. Children have the same stresses we do and teaching them to cope will help them when they are adults with children of their own. As crazy as they make you sometimes, they make themselves just as crazy. Help them to work through their agitation in creative ways.

Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom. Visit
Becky Lyn’s Website. or write her at

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The art of timeouts