Hi O., this is one of the problems with time out. Who is the time out really for? You or him? He obviously does not mind the "time away" I know kids who actually prefer time out to a lot of other activities.
Why does he need to say sorry? What if he isn't? Do you want him to learn to say what he does not mean just because "mommy said so?"
To me, time out is a waste of everyone's time. I believe in parenting, full time. First and foremost, you are the parent, you set the guidelines. Parenting your children takes discipline. The term discipline really means - a system of rules of conduct or method of practice - so PRACTICE being the parent you want to be. If they are doing something you don't like tell them what you DO like. As soon as there is a consequence the learn to weight the consequence with the actions. Guide and role model the behaviors you want.
It is very simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. You state in a very clear tone, "we do not do that in our family. Are you part of this family? Fine then we don't do that (whatever the behaviour is). If you want something, need something are upset about something we discuss it, we don't (whine, be disrespectful whatever the behaviour) in this family. So in this family we discuss what we want. Are you part of this family? Great, then let's discuss it. Do you need a minute to think about what you want to say? (Give him the opportunity to calm down and formulate his thoughts)" Sit with him, do not send him of to "think about it" he is 3! What do you think he will think about when he is alone? He will think about the chair he is sitting in the paint on the wall, whatever, but I will promise you he will not be sitting there thinking about what he did wrong. Ah, but i have known children to think about how they can get away with it next time, how not to get caught!
Be firm, but not mean. Be straight, no guesswork on his part. There are no consequences, just facts. In this family we do this, and this is what we don't do. Fact. No story, no explanation, no variations.
The other day we were at a friends place visiting. I told both my daughters we needed to leave by 6:30 to get home in time for my live parenting call at 7 PM. I said: We will say our good byes at 6:20 and be in the car, backing out of the driveway before 6:30. Tonight I have a coaching call and we will be home in time, alright? Everyone agreed. At 6:10 I reminded them we had to leave in 10 mins. My daughter's friend said, "Can Taylor Rae stay and play longer and my mom will drive her home?" Taylor Rae answered and said, "nope, we can't". I didn't have to say anything. It was already decided earlier.
Some might argue for negotiation skills...seizing the opportunity, but you know what, there are some non negotiables. Brushing their teeth is a non negotiable, drinking their nutritional shake in the AM is a non negotiable, getting in the car so that I was on time for my team call...a non negotiable. They know the rules, they know their boundaries and we never have or will have the whining, the disrespect etc.
Family Success Coach