Youth Services Law

Limits of A Time Out

Limits of A Time OutA new study from California indicates that children under the age of 7 do not understand much about the difference between a few minutes and a few hours.  The researchers found that, even when children use words like “minute” or “hour,” they really don’t know how much time those words measure.  So when you place a child in a corrective time out, he or she may not understand how to predict when it will end, or how it relates to the offense.

The researchers recommend formal instruction in concepts such as how hours are divided into minutes, and how those are divided into seconds.  It also may help if caretakers use a concrete measure that children already know.  For example, instead of just saying “five minutes,” or “until the big hand reaches the three,” it might help to say “until the other children finish their snack” or “until everyone else has picked a toy to play with.”

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