We're currently trying to avoid punishment, with the exception of very "natural" consequences (refusing to eat lunch may result in no snack, etc.)

But for a while, we were using "time outs" for those situations where there wasn't a natural consequence, and we felt that behavior needed to be negatively reinforced.

But, at one point, our son started asking for them (not necessarily when he'd done anything wrong - just as an interesting activity to pursue.)

How do you handle a child who seems to want time outs, in situations where you don't have natural consequences, and aren't open to physical or more traumatic punishment?

Note: I"m not looking for the argument for why punishment in general might be inadvisable; we're currently trying to function that way, but if we (or others) do decide on time outs, I'm not sure how to address the deliberate requests for 'em.

1 Answer 1


The best approach I have found is to accede. My daughter sometimes asks to go in time out when she wants to throw a fit. I think she sees it—rightly so—as the place you go to calm down, so I let her. That seems natural to me. After all, that's pretty much what adults do when they are angry with someone and want to calm down. It hasn't seemed to diminish the disciplinary quality, because she still doesn't like it when it's not her idea.

If it stops being effective, and it will eventually, the next stage is usually removal of toys or privileges.

  • 1
    I agree with Karl's answer. My son asks for them too, or, at least anticipates them when he's just finished torturing his younger brother, and I grant him his request. I don't see any sign that the time out's effectiveness is diminished by him expecting/requesting them. In fact, I see that it's working since 1) he clearly recognizes the cause & effect relationship between misbehavior and punishment, and 2) he still hates doing "time" whether he put himself there to sulk or I put him there to calm down after an inter-brother brawl.
    – Jax
    Mar 14, 2014 at 22:38
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    Exactly. Time out isn't exactly a punishment - it's a time to cool down and calm down. A child asking for time out is either just playing (fine) or actually understands and wants to calm down proactively - a good thing in my book!
    – Joe
    Mar 15, 2014 at 2:45

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