Help with Time Out

Updated on January 09, 2011
O.S. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
16 answers

my 3 and half year old is used to time out. but now i have the problem after the timer has gone (super nanny style time out) that he doesnt say i say"say sorry to mummy" he doesnt. "this is your warning or you go back in time out". he still doesnt say it and he goes back in. this can happen for 4 or 5 cycles and eventually its all just confusing as to why we started time out in the first place. this has been happening for the last 6 months. apart from that time out was great.

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answers from Lynchburg on

Hi O.-

I personally never required my kids at that age to least not in the 'heat' of a time out. Sometime later in the day, I might 'review' the situation...and maybe would get a sincere apology...But in my experience...with 'my' kids...often...after a time out...they really were not necessarily 'sorry'.

My 'goal' with time out was to stop a behavior...then...later 're dress'...and maybe get a sincere sorry...

Hope this helps

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Don't use time out, to punish him , you can explain to him his action that was wrong, and how to correct it he does understand, stop the timeout
either will be no effected or he might do more

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answers from Austin on

I agree with the moms, I also suggest that for each transaction you, your son and husband have to include, thank you, please, I am sorry.. This way it will come more naturally to your son..

He will learn it feels better when someone tells him "I am sorry". Or "I am sorry, I hurt your feelings." "I am sorry, I yelled instead of using my regular voice. " He will then want to apologize to you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

sounds like a power struggle. Get to his eye level and make him look at you. Say somethig like "What did you do to get your time-out? What do you think you can do next time so that you don't get a time-out? What do you say to mommy?" He'll either say nothing, say the answers, or say "I don't know" which will help you as a parent know what's going on in his head so you can explain it to him. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I don't make my 4 1/2 year old say "sorry" after a time out - only if she hurt her brother (or vice versa). For time out, after the timer goes off, she has to come to me and tell me why she went into time out. If she doesn't know, (or can't say), then I tell her why. i don't force the "sorry", I think that can lead to power struggles. Sometimes they are NOT sorry, only sorry they got caught! My personal feeling is that if they can recognize the behavior that was out of line you are doing well.
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would skip the sorry mummy thing. He needs to figure out that time out is for the action. not for the failure to say sorry. Sounds like a control thing on your end and sometimes you need to pick your battles. are you giving him time outs for behavior or for hurting your feelings?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

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

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

There are some serious tradeoffs that come with requiring a child to apologize in order to get on with his day. If he does NOT feel sorry, he's being told to lie as a matter of form. If he doesn't agree that the punishment was fair, he's not being allowed his own thoughts and feelings. He'll hang onto them, of course, but his authentic self goes underground and genuine communication takes a hit.

Kids do learn good manners just from seeing and hearing them consistently modeled by the adults in their lives. My grandson has never been required to say he's sorry, but since about your son's age, he offers his regrets freely when appropriate, because his parents don't hesitate to apologize to each other and to him. Same with please and thank you. He sees these niceties in action, and learns exactly what they mean and when they are appropriate.

I'm glad you're noticing that the original issue gets lost when he's not immediately sorry. It's possible that he's simply outgrowing the time-out as an effective discipline tool. There are other approaches that work very well for most kids, and that virtually eliminate the need for punishment in their usual applications. If you'd like to explore those options and see if they work better for you, you could google Emotion Coaching or Dr. Sears' website, or read the best-ever parenting book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. My grandson responds fabulously to the techniques taught in this book, and many other young families I've suggested it to have been delighted with the happy results they are getting (even with a couple of particularly difficult children).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Supposedly kids of this age still don't really "get" the concept of saying worry. Just keep reinforcing how good it makes you feel when he says he is sorry and modeling what you want your child to learn. Eventually, he will get it.


The Sweetest



answers from Los Angeles on

I don't make my kids say they are sorry to me, but if they did something to their sibling, then a hug and a kiss...and an I'm sorry WILL happen. I just have them stand up, shortly explain what they did, and WHY they wen tot the mat. I give them a hug and tell them I love them. I don't use the timer. I make them stay until I think they are ready to get off. My son, who is 4 has stayed there for 20 minutes one time.



answers from Los Angeles on

I recommend that you read the book "1-2-3 Magic." Although it is somewhat at odds with the "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen..." book, 1-2-3 Magic is a very easy read and describes an effective way of handling time-outs for preschoolers. There is no discussion after a time-out, no saying sorry. Just back to the behavior for which you are asking. Best wishes.


answers from Williamsport on

Good work addressing this before he gets any older. Discipline should be avoided by kids, not "gotten used to". He's totally disrespecting your method by refusing part of it while also still getting himself into the consequence in the first place. He's obviously not at all concerned to have it repeated numerous times.

I never ask for an apology after a consequence. The goal is to teach the behavior to stop on a warning the next time, and learn not to begin the wrong behavior anymore, and I feel once the consequence is paid, it's paid. No need to revisit, apologize, mention it whatever. Just move on with the positive day. They do understand the next time around, and take us seriously. We do the explaining and warning CALMLY BEFORE HAND always offering the choice to stop the behavior and avoid the consequence, so there's nothing to discuss after. If anything I'll remind them one more time why their choice led them there with a calm tone, but that's usually not necessary unless they're getting sidetracked and blaming someone else.

I feel like the apology etc like on Supernanny becomes sort of drama, and almost an incentive for kids who crave attention with the whole, "make up and hug" after. If the behavior has lasted over 6 months and he's 3 1/2, he could probably use something firmer. You should find a way to amp it up if you're against spanking, so that you can just warn him not to do something and he'll stop and he won't repeat wrong behaviors enough to need discipline more than once a great while.

Rather than have him win a battle by not apologizing anymore, you may want to add something else into his discipline to make it firmer so he doesn't notice you ditched the apology (hopefully some good tips form other mommas), and he still thinks you're in charge. If you want to stick to the Supernanny time outs WITH apology, you'll need to give him a consequence that matters to him for refusing to apologize so he decides to apologize, but whatever that is would probably work for the whole situation! :) This site/book is good.



answers from Los Angeles on

I think that you are experiencing the limits of the time-out as well as the difficlty that some kids can have with saying 'im sorry.' It's difficult for parents since it's a social convention that you want your child to follow.

Here is an alternative strategy that may work: when your child does something inappropriate, like hitting another child, fight your instinct to turn your attention to your child (to put him in time out or to request that he says "i'm sorry"). Instead, put all of your attention on the child who has been hurt, even turning your back to your son. Ask if the child is ok. Bring her a stuffed animal. Soothe her. When you are done, turn to your son and say, "hands are not for hitting people" (maybe even break out the "Hands are Not for Hitting" book and read it together). Then tell him, "when you are ready to show that you are sorry, you may come back and play." Give him the option of making amends in a way other than saying "i'm sorry" - giving a hug, offering the child a toy, etc.

My middle daughter - 5 - has always had a really hard time saying 'im sorry.' Not because she isn't remorseful, but because she is embarrased about having done something wrong. Giving her another way to express her regret is good for her and good for the other kid who gets the message in a tangible way.

Just a thought!

Good luck :)



answers from San Diego on

Hello, When my kids were growing up, I never made them say they were sorry. I have a big problem with lying and they were raised to always tell the truth no matter what the consequences might be. I am not going to say they never lied, but they were mostly pretty honest. Anyway, I would have them look me in the eye and tell me they wouldn't do whatever they had done again. If they had done something to someone else, they would look them in the eye and tell them they wouldn't do it again. For the most part this worked very well. When I worked on the playground at school I used the same action. It worked very well there, too. I made sure that my kids understood what sorry was and how to best use it. When they accidentally did something that they didn't mean to do, they were very quick to tell the other person, "Sorry." Plus, if after some thought, when they had done something on purpose, if they suddenly realized that they had hurt the other person's feelings or hurt them physically, they would go and say sorry. That was a true feeling.
Good luck with your precious little boy.
K. K.



answers from Provo on

I like what jessintexas said. Fot my daufhter (almost 2) we use a chair in th middle of a room for time out and we use the rule a minute for however old the chrild is. When we put her in time out we tell her why she is there and tell her she has to stay there for one minute. And we don't leave the room we just stay by her but don't talk to her. When her time is up we talk to her again about why she had to be in time out and tell her we love her and ask her to say sorry. She can't actually say the words yet but she babbles and gives us a hug. If she doesn't want to say sorry (which does happen) we tell her she has to sit there until she is ready. So we just stay kneeled in front of her and ask her every so often if she is ready to apologize sometimes it take 5+ mintues but she eventually says it. She's pretty young to mean it but getting her to at least try is the most important part to us. Just be consistent and he'll get it eventually. :)



answers from Los Angeles on

I usually asked my son to say sorry about what he did wrong instead of just saying sorry to me. Like sorry for throwing the toys etc.

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