So here are a few tips that we've learned....
1. Stay calm. Easier said than done when you have an insane, emotional, aggressive, psychotic little hurricane of a child going crazy. Stay neutral, no matter how difficult. Show no emotion.
2. BEFORE a possibility of time out (when reviewing rules is a good time) explain what happens when rules are broken.
For example-When you break this rule, you go into time out. Because you are 5 years old, time out will be for 5 minutes. Time out will start when you are sitting in time out and behaving properly. Explain that it's ok to be angry/sad/etc, but you still need to behave appropriately. Crying is ok, but name calling, screaming, kicking, etc is not ok and time out will not start until that behavior stops. We will come to you when time out is over and talk about why you were in time out, then we want apologies. (Hugs are good afterwards as well but tread lightly depending on the child's history and trauma.)
3. Be clear and concise about expectations and what will happen when it looks like a time out is coming.
For example-Hitting is not allowed. If you hit again you will go into time out.
4. If they continue with whatever the warning was about, don't get into a battle, simply state that they need to go to time out, then continue with what you were doing.
5. You've told them what to do and why, now you wait for them to do it. IGNORE any attempts to get your attention including aggression, screaming, crying, grabbing at you, etc. If you need to intervene for their (or other's) safety, do so without making eye contact or giving any attention. This could last for a long time, be prepared.
For example-they start screaming any number of nasty things, including profanity, they get aggressive, kicking, biting, hair pulling, they try to destroy property, ripping paper, knocking over glass, banging on walls. What do you do? Keep them and others safe (blocking them from hitting, removing items that are dangerous, pulling your hair from their little vice like grip---and then putting it in a ponytail) and IGNORE THEM. Do not get upset, do not show any emotion in your face. Seriously, go play some poker and learn that poker face well. You'll need it! They will try everything to get your attention! I have heard some whoppers. Hysterical sobbing while saying "You're hurting my heart!" comes to mind. Eventually (and sometimes it's 20+ minutes, or for those really stubborn ones even an hour or more) you will WIN! They will realize this isn't getting them anywhere, they will go in time out. Just in case sometime you think they might actually have forgotten what they're supposed to do, you can "remind them" without talking to them. Talk to a spouse, other kid, even a pet "We'll pull out our snacks after Jimmy is done in time out in the chair." Then it gives them the reminder without giving them the attention. This probably would only be needed for the first time or two of time out when they're getting used to what it's all about.
Side note-For some kids or in some circumstances depending on the age/size of the child, you can try placing them in time out over and over and over again until they stay.....more likely needed for toddlers or young children, but be careful, especially with foster kids. Putting your hands on them, even in this type of situation and not in an aggressive way can be a sticky situation to be in, so avoid if possible. However, if you choose to try this, again, do NOT make eye contact, do not talk, do not respond in any way. And be consistent. You will get tired, you will get frustrated, but if you stop or give up it will be that much harder next time! I promise!
6. Time out is over now (which started AFTER they were sitting in time out in a calm manner, or whatever you feel is acceptable.) Come down to their level. Stay neutral still. Try to stay matter of fact without being confrontational. Tell them what they did to go into time out, explain why it's not ok to do whatever it was. Tell them you want an apology (or need to apologize to anyone else who was affected.)
For example-Time out is over. You were in time out because you pushed Billy. It's not ok to push or be aggressive in any way because someone might get hurt. I would like you to apologize to Billy and offer him a hug.
7. Move on! Don't hold a grudge (although that is hard sometimes!) Did apologies and hugs, now let's go play.
Them's the basics, but here are some other suggestions...........
9. We also will discuss good decisions and bad decisions that he made throughout the time out process.
Don't harp on the bad decisions a lot, just review what he did, what he should do better next time. Let him know it's ok to make mistakes, but that's why there are punishments/consequences/time outs. They're to help us learn so we try not to make mistakes again. However, make a HUGE deal about the good decisions he made.
For example-What good and bad decisions did you make? "I made a bad decision because I called names and didn't go into time out right away. I made good decisions by not being aggressive." So my response would be "Right, name calling isn't nice so I know you'll try to remember not to do that. And next time you'll try to go to time out right away so it can be over faster, right? But I'm SO GLAD you made such a great decision by not being aggressive! That makes me so proud of you! You controlled yourself and didn't hit or kick even though you were very angry! You did a great job and it makes me so happy! I knew you could do it!" I mean, I lay it on thick! lol But push push push the positive reinforcement!
If they need help finding good and bad decisions, help them, but ALWAYS find a good decision that they made! Even if after 20 minutes they FINALLY went into time out and completed it, that's a good decision! lol
10. Be prepared to follow through no matter where you are. Be prepared to be late to things. Especially early on when they're learning about this time out thing. We also make it clear that time out will still happen if a case worker is here, if we're at a party, if we're at the store. Consistency! If you say you'll do it, do it!
11. Most important, keep your sense of humor in your own head. Keep your blood pressure down by remembering YOU are in charge. They want to be in charge, but they are not. YOU ARE. If they want to have a tantrum, let them. They can get angry and kick and scream and get all worked up all they want, but YOU have the ability to keep yourself calm. You don't have to get all worked up with them. To keep myself occupied doing something and not paying attention to them, sometimes I'll pull out a piece of paper and just start writing. He doesn't know what I'm doing, he just knows I'm not paying attention to him. I've written "oh, here we go. Another time out. I wonder how long this will last" (then as I was getting scratched by teeny tiny fingernails) "Reminder to self, trim his nails." This little funny moment in my head helped me to keep my cool and remember this will end. And get stubborn. Think to yourself, no I will not let this little devil child beat me! I am older and smarter and he will not win! I will remain calm because I'm not the one screaming. I'm not the one who has to sit in time out and be bored. Eh...sucks to be him. It's silly and of course I would not say these things out loud..lol..but it helps me keep my cool.
12. Natural consequences are marvelous things! If he throws his toy and it breaks, that's a natural consequence to his behavior. "I'm not fixing it, I didn't break it. That's a good lesson to learn, not to throw your toys." One time, he was ripping down magnets and the papers on the refrigerator. I knew nothing there was irreplaceable, but there was a wedding invitation to an uncle's wedding. I didn't want it to get ripped but I knew I could get another if I wanted. However, he ripped it down and shredded it into lots of little pieces. I didn't react at all. (He didn't know what it was at the time.) During the event, I even texted "uncle" and told him, he'd be getting a phone call apologizing soon and explained. After time out, I told him to clean up what he threw down, ripped, etc. I explained what the invitation was and then told him he had to call "uncle" and apologize for ripping it. He got very upset. He was embarrassed and ashamed, but it was important that he apologize for what he did. He did, all was well, but I think that was a very important lesson to learn. Another incident, he knocked down a bunch of picture frames. One of them broke, so I told him he had to use his allowance to buy me a new frame because he broke the other one. (Dollar store, no biggie.) **I believe in some counties/agencies, this is not allowed, which I think is ridiculous, so make sure before you do this. It was allowed for us.
So, this is pretty long, but I hope some find it useful. And when suddenly time out isn't working right, go back and review. What are you doing or not doing that you should be?
Good luck and stay calm. Remember, YOU are not the one who is worked up and going into time out, so try not to let your blood pressure go up! <3