Time Out Failure

I’m starting to think that maybe time-out isn’t such a great punishment, after all. It generally works pretty well, but when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. You may remember this little episode.

Well, the other night I found myself in another tough spot. N didn’t want to go to bed. I mean he really didn’t want to go to bed. He was doing everything he could to stall. At one point, he was sitting on the potty, claiming that he had to go. He didn’t. In fact, when I challenged him on it, he tried and failed, accomplishing nothing more than turning his face a rather startling shade of pink.

When I took him off the toilet, he refused to wash his hands. Then he refused to move. When I tried to get him into bed, he did his slow collapse routine.

Needless to say, by this point I had lost my temper. Now it was more of a question of self control. I picked him up and sat him down with his back to the wall, right next to his bed. The intent with this kind of move is to startle the child out of his routine, reinforce the fact that you’re much bigger than he is, and get him to listen to you.

All three of these goals worked. He listened, dry-eyed, while I explained that it was bed time, and that he was going to go to bed without any more stalling or delays. When we were finished, I reinforced things by asking him what time it was.

“Bedtime,” he said.

“Okay, go to bed.” I said, standing up and offering him a hand.


The proper response here would have been to go back into talking mode. I didn’t do that. “What did you say to me?”


I was in trouble now. His older brother was already in bed (they share a room) and was watching the insurrection closely.

“Bed or timeout?”


“You are in so much trouble,” I growled, picking him up like a football. I turned to his brother as we left. “Go ahead and go to sleep big guy. I’ll bring him back later.”

I put the little man on his belly in the timeout spot. Not wanting to sit and watch him, I went to the computer and poked around a bit. The computer is well positioned for this. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, and he could see me ignoring him. It was a good setup.

After two minutes – he’s two and timeout is supposed to last one minute for each year of age – I asked him if he was ready to come out of timeout.


This time, I let four minutes go by before asking. “Are you ready to come out?”


Six more minutes crawled by. The little guy wasn’t crying or talking or anything – just lying there. “Ready to come out?”


Four more minutes passed and then I finally heard a sound from the timeout corner: snoring. He’d fallen asleep.

I picked him up and carried him to bed. When I got there, his brother was still awake.

“Is he okay?” he whispered.

“Yes,” I said confidently. “But he learned his lesson. When it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go to bed. Right?”


I hate timeout.

1 thoughts on “Time Out Failure

  1. Nana says:

    Timeout is,to me and D.O.D. a device that we first heard about when B. used it. It is by no means 30 years old! No help on such stubborn defiance, though! Sounds as if he has both families sets of genes!!!! Not my side of course! lol

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