Time Out Or Time To Think?

Montessori Approach To Help Transition Into School

Isolating children when they don’t meet our expectations of behavior is one method of implementing time out. Using time out may be one of the most popular discipline methods used by parents today. Carl Larsson, the Swedish artist, did a painting in 1897 of an older boy sitting in time out. The time-out technique has been around for a long time, sometimes used in a positive way, but much too often used in a punitive way.

Using time out may be one of the most popular discipline methods used by parents today. Carl Larsson, the Swedish artist, did a painting in 1897 of an older boy sitting in time out. The time out technique has been around for a long time, sometimes used in a positive way, but much too often used in a punitive way.

How can we know if a time out are punitive or positive?

Example of Young Girl In Time Out When Your Child Loses When You Rush Him Through Life

A Punitive time out often escalate conflict instead of resolving it. When children feel shamed, they get angry and defensive. Their brain goes into fight-or-flight mode, making it impossible for them to learn and change positively. Punishment may temporarily stop a behavior, but it does not teach new skills.

In contrast, a positive time out is designed to be a calm, neutral break. It gives children a chance to pause, reflect, and reset before trying again. The goal is supporting children to regain self-control, not make them feel worthless or deficient. Positive time out teaches self-regulation and personal responsibility.

The break allows a child's heightened emotions to settle, creating physiological conditions more conducive to rational thinking. Rather than motivating through shame, positive time-outs demonstrate that overwhelming feelings are normal and can be managed with the right tools.

Learning to Control Grown Up Feelings?

For a time out to be positive and effective, it should be brief, boring, and balanced. A calm, neutral spot works better than being isolated, which can feel punitive. Narrate the reason for the break in a compassionate, matter-of-fact way: “You seem upset and are having trouble following directions right now. Let's take a pause over here until you feel calmer.”

Keep it brief, about 1 minute per year of age. Sitting for too long can make children feel rejected. Make it boring by avoiding entertainment, conversations, or anything potentially reinforcing. Balance the break by reconnecting with the child afterward to discuss behavior, set limits, and problem-solve for next time.

Montessori Language Writing

With positive timeouts, children learn that big feelings are normal and can be managed. Instead of escalating conflict, positive breaks provide space for self-reflection and development of emotional intelligence. Used wisely, time out can be a powerful tool for nurturing self-control and respectful behavior.

If we send a child to sit in the corner or tell them to “go to your room” and our intention is to motivate the child to act differently, unlike using shame or guilt, we are using time out as punishment. When we try to use guilt and shame to make our children change we fall for the faulty assumption that making our child feel bad about their behavior will teach them how to act differently. More often than not our punitive agenda has our children sitting and thinking that they are “bad”, or thinking of ways of how not to get caught next time, or thinking of ways to get even…read more…