Why Time-Out Doesn’t Work For EVERY Behavior

Let me set the scene- Lilly is a 5 year old girl and was asked by her mom to pick up her toys.  Lilly immediately begins to throw a tantrum and refuses to complete this chore. Her mama thinks to herself, “NOPE! I am not having this and puts her in time-out!”

I am sure this is a very common scene for a lot of you reading this! Although this mama provided a consequence in the hopes that the tantrum behavior would reduce in the future, there was one fundamental issue with this scenario….

Lilly’s mama actually reinforced this challenging behavior!

She allowed for Lilly to continue to escape cleaning up the toys! When the mama provided the request, Lilly tantrumed. The function of this challenging behavior was maintained by escape because she DID NOT want to clean!

The fact that she did not follow through and make her clean but rather put her immediately in time out, allowed Lilly to CONTINUE to escape the demand even more! She was able to get out of cleaning for an even longer period of time! That means in the future, she is probably going to tantrum again because she may think that it will get her out of cleaning.

Time-out did not work in this scenario!

So, time-out does not work in every situation as a suitable consequence. This is why it is important to have an understanding of functions of behavior! If the function of a behavior is for escape, a time out is PROBABLY not the best course of action. Instead, mama should have followed through on her request of cleaning. Maybe a little ‘hand over hand’ action to get the job done? A little verbal praise for compliance here or there. Whatever is needed to get the cleaning done in this situation.

If cleaning has become a REALLY big issue, maybe implement a sticker chart for compliance in the future. I also love using behavior momentum as well. I just completed a YouTube tutorial on how I like to implement behavior momentum at home! Check it out for more information on this behavioral strategy!

Check back on the blog on Wednesday and I will give you more behavioral strategies on how to handle escape maintained behaviors! See you then :).



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