It used to be called ‘time out’, now we tend to call it the naughty step.
If you’re thinking about employing this as a strategy in getting your child to behave, make sure you get it right.
Child psychologist and author Penelope Leach says, in her book Your Baby And Child (Penguin, £15.99), that there’s nothing wrong with the principle – provided it’s used correctly. Here’s how to do it.
Naughty step etiquette
1. The idea of time out is to take a child out of a stressful, no-win social situation and give her a chance to calm down so she can come back and start again with the slate wiped clean.
2. After due warning, a child who won’t stop misbehaving is put by herself, without toys or distractions, on a special chair or in a particular place. She has to stay there for a certain number of minutes, timed from when she stops playing up.
3. Limit the number of minutes according to how old the child is: one minute for a one-year-old; two minutes for a two-year-old and so on.
4. Make sure your child know what she’s done wrong, what she should have done, and what she has to do to put things right.
5. Do not use time out with a child who won’t cooperate. If she’s forced to take time out or remain in a ‘naughty area’, it becomes a punishment that is both physical and humiliating.
6. Time out is also not suitable for a child who isn’t old enough to understand or has a limited ability to understand.
7. Once the time is up and your child has apologised, have a hug and forget about the bad behaviour. Time on the naughty step effectively wipes the slate clean.