Time-Out Gone Wrong: My Child Destroyed Their Room!

For some children, especially older ones, their bedroom is the most logical place to spend a time-out.  Careful that it is not overly reinforcing with a computer, videogame devices, phone, etc.  And what happens if they trash their room?  First, no emotion from you.  Bite your tongue, walk away, do whatever you need to do to not show your absolute fury.  And then?  Let them live with their mess.  Give them a few days and talk to them about what happened (when you are both calm) and offer to help get things back in order.  Yes, you did not have a part in its destruction but children, even older ones, have a difficult time initiating this job because they do not know where to start and have not yet developed the organization skills. Messy room

If the thought of standing by while your child trashes their room makes your skin crawl, try these alternative consequences to a time-out:

  1. Early bedtime
  2. Removal of a privilege (phone, TV, videogame, having a friend over).  Make it as immediate as possible for optimal effectiveness.
  3. Give an unpleasant chore to be completed that day or evening

Time-outs and privilege losses are not meant to be punishing in and of themselves.  While your children may not realize it in the moment, they are learning an important lesson in emotional regulation and how to cope with real-life situations.


Phelan, Thomas. (2010). 1-2-3 Magic: Effective discipline for children 2-12. Glen Ellyn, IL: ParentMagic, Inc.