Discipline Q&A: The Time-Out Chair

[Q]: I think we should use a time-out chair at church. Other teachers say, “Never!” What do you think?

[A]: Kids need consistency. So whatever you do, your church teachers must come to an agreement about the “time-out chair” method.

The time-out chair is a useful tool in preschool classrooms if used correctly, but it isn’t the epitome of discipline techniques that it’s sometimes thought to be. If you choose to use this technique, here are practical tips to make it work well.

  • Think of the “chair” as a way to help children learn self-discipline. Help children understand that when they’re in a bad mood or angry, they need to get away from other people to collect their thoughts and emotions.
  • Don’t leave a child in time-out for longer than the duration of his attention span. That means one minute in time-out for each year of age. Otherwise, the child will forget why he’s even in the chair!
  • Keep a special chair in a predetermined corner of your room. This helps the children know where to go when you send them to time-out.
  • Apply the same questions and standards to each time-out session and every child by posting these questions above the chair: “What rule did you disobey?” and “What could you have done differently?”
  • Reaffirm that the child is loved and accepted. After focusing on the child’s behavior, finish her time-out by saying, “I love you and so does God!”

Gordon and Becki West are co-authors of The Discipline Guide for Children’s Ministry (Group Publishing) and founders of KidZ at Heart, International (www.kidzatheart.org).

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including churchleaders.com and SermonCentral.com.