Time-Outs and the Magic Bottle

Children in the three to six year-old age group are known for their strong feelings, good and bad. When they’re happy, they are delightful, fun little people. When they are upset, disappointed, angry or just too tired to cope they can be a nightmare. When used correctly, time-outs can be a wonderful way to teach your child to calm himself down and find another way to handle a difficult situation. The “magic bottle” is just an easily made tool that makes time-outs even more effective.

What is a time-out?

A time-out is exactly what it sounds like. You are giving your child a break from whatever is causing him to act out until he can regain control. If explained well to a child and if it’s used consistently, time-outs work incredibly well in helping you and your child stop tantrums in their tracks. Explain to your kids that you will give them one warning when you see things deteriorating (fighting, hitting, kicking, tantrum, etc.). If they do not turn things around on their own, explain that they will be going to time-out until they can control themselves.

At home, pick a time-out spot. It can be a kid-sized chair in a corner or facing a wall, it can be the bottom step of a staircase, it can be a bean bag chair in the middle of the floor. Just make sure it is boring and is used for time-outs always. Time-outs should generally last one minute for each year of a child’s age. Show your son or daughter how you will set a timer once they are sitting quietly. If, during the time-out, your child starts to act up again, reset the timer and start over.

What is a magic bottle?

While you are showing the kids the timer, show them the “magic bottle.” (Some people call it a hush bottle, a calm bottle, or a relax bottle -- choose a name you like!) While you are setting the timer for time-out, shake up the contents of the bottle. The child carries the bottle to his designated time-out place. The slowly settling glitter will have a calming influence. It gives them something to concentrate on other than their anger or frustration. (If you follow the instructions at the link carefully, you can adjust the thickness of the liquid in the bottle so that the contents settle at about the same time the timer rings.) Aside from the first time you show the kids the “magic bottle,” do not let them use it for anything other than a time-out. It is not a toy.

Be consistent!

Be clear with your children what behaviors will earn them a time-out and then use the time-out every time - even if it is inconvenient for you. When your are out, pick a spot for time-outs, should you need it, and show it to your children. If the kids know you mean it and that you will follow through on time-out each time their behavior is unacceptable, they will quickly learn how to behave to avoid it. Make a travel magic bottle for these occasions. Use it as a timer too.

At the beginning, time-outs can be difficult for you and for your child. Some children have to test your resolve and you may find yourself resetting the timer over and over and over. Stick with it. If you find yourself getting angry during this process, consider making yourself a “magic bottle." They have a calming effect on adults too!

Once the kids know you mean business, they will begin settling down on the first try. There will always be the occasional melt down, but you’ll find their frequency diminishing significantly with this technique. Good luck!