The use of Time Out as a self-regulation calm down strategy for children between the ages of 3 and 9 years old is part of a comprehensive positive behavior management plan in 77% of empirically validated parent programs for young children (Everett, Hupp, & Olmi, 2010; Fabiano et al., 2004; Graziano et al., 2014; Kazdin, 2008). Time Out has been researched for three decades and shown to be effective in producing positive outcomes in terms of reducing children’s aggressive behavior as well as preventing parental child maltreatment. However, despite abundant empirical literature, the use of Time Out is still a controversial topic, with many people feeling uncomfortable about its use.
In Incredible Years (and in most other empirically validated parent programs), Time Out is taught as way for children to learn to calm down and re-regulate in the midst of strong emotions and to give children time to reflect on a better solution to the problem situation. It also works because it is Time Out from a reinforcing environment established through positive parent teacher-child interactions. In the Incredible Years programs parents, teachers, and children are taught to see the Time Out as taking a break in order to calm down. This helps children learn a strategy to calm down and also helps adults to self-regulate and model an appropriate response to a conflict situation. Research has shown that when this predictable and respectful strategy is used appropriately, reductions in children’s aggressive behavior and increases in their feelings of safety and security in their relationships with caregivers are seen. Parents who use Time Out to calm down as one tool in their positive parenting repertoire show reductions in their use of critical or abusive parenting responses (Everett et al., 2010; Fabiano et al., 2004; Kennedy et al., 1990).