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5-Year-Old Won't Stay in Timeout


I have been trying to use timeout with my 5-year-old daughter, but she won’t stay. I require her to sit for one minute for every year of age, or five minutes. She will sometimes stay for a few minutes, but at other times, she refuses to sit at all. I am spending a lot of time chasing her around the house. Please, how do I get her to stay in timeout?



For starters, please put away your running shoes. Many parents are frustrated by their children’s resistance or refusal to stay in timeout. Believe it or not, the fact that your daughter refuses to stay in timeout is actually a good thing. That mean that she does not like to be away from the fun and enjoyable activities of your household, even for a few minutes. Timeout is not fun for her, and it is not supposed to be! Whether your child is leaving the timeout location because she is trying to avoid ​it or is attempting to gain additional attention from you, there are a number of steps that you can take to teach your daughter to remain in timeout.

  • Have a matter-of-fact conversation with your daughter about the purpose of timeout and the importance of her remaining there. Describe for her those behaviors that will result in a timeout as well as those positive behaviors that you would like to see from her.
  • Pick a good timeout location. An ideal place might be a chair facing a corner with no windows, or a stairway that is somewhat isolated. Your daughter should not be able to see a television or be able to observe other activities going on about the house.
  • Set a timer for a small amount of time at first. You might start with 30 seconds or one minute. This will help your daughter learn to stay in timeout more easily. Once you have had greater success with teaching her to remain in timeout, the amount of time can be gradually increased until it is having a meaningful impact on her behavior. Using a timer will also reduce her frequent complaints and requests to you for timeout to end. The timer will speak for you.
  • Tell your daughter that she will need to remain in timeout until the timer sounds. If she leaves, return her to timeout and reset the timer to the original time.
  • While your child is in timeout, make sure that NOTHING happens involving your daughter. That means that neither you nor anyone else in the house (including the dog) should respond to her questions, complaints, and so forth.
  • Once timeout has ended, have your daughter either correct the situation that sent her to timeout in the first place (e.g., apologize for hitting, clean up a mess, etc.) or finish complying with the request that she had refused to complete (e.g., “Pick up your toys and put them away”).
  • Don’t take good behavior for granted during the day. Offer frequent praise for those behaviors you want to see in your daughter.