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Have You Used Time Outs as a Form of Discipline?

Posted by on May. 2, 2014 at 2:05 PM
  • 16 Replies

Why Time-Outs Are Hurting Your Kid & What You Should Do Instead

by Nicole Fabian-Weber

time outsGot a "time-out" chair in your home? You might want to put it back in the playroom. While time-outs were the discipline method du jour for parents in the '90s, they've fallen out of favor with today's more progressive child behavior experts. "Time-outs were originally a way for kids to take a break, think about what they did, maybe even have remorse for it, and settle down and return," says Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D, author of How Toddlers Thrive. "They don't make sense at all for young children."

The two biggest reasons to skip time-outs? They're not healthy for your child's emotional well-being (now or later), and they're not effective in terms of curbing "bad" behavior. (If you're constantly giving your child a time-out, that tells you something, doesn't it?)

Let's take a closer look at this form of discipline.

When toddlers "act out," there's generally a reason for it. They're trying to express something, even if it's in a way you don't like. "It's usually emotional or a call for attention," explains Klein. "They lack impulse control, so they act on their feelings with their bodies, mouths, and actions. To a child who is already upset or acting out, the time-out makes them even more mad and less understood. It says to the child that they are bad for what they are feeling or needing."

A time-out will make your child feel "unloved" at a crucial moment. Time-outs are a "power play by the parent to take control of the negative behavior, and that makes the child feel bad, shameful, and causes them to worry that the parent does not love them at the crucial time when they are building the trust that the parent is there for them in good moments and bad." When your child needs you most, he'll wind up feeling misunderstood and like you don't want to be around them unless they are anything but happy and well-behaved. If time-outs are used regularly, your child may stop talking with you about their feelings altogether, certain that you won't listen. (A lesson they will take well into the teen years!)

Time-outs have negative long-term effects on your child's emotional well-being. Some experts believe that time-outs enforce the message that one should bottle up uncomfortable emotions, which, in turn, causes children to repress their painful feelings down the road. Time-outs can also thwart parents' efforts to create children who are equipped to take responsibility for their actions. "That can't happen if they learn their emotions are seen as bad," says Klein. "Instead, children need help knowing that they have good and bad feelings; that sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't." Also, if a parent uses control methods, the child doesn't learn how to regulate themselves and handle their own emotions in the long run. "They learn to avoid punishment or to increase their behavior to get more attention," adds Klein. "But they do not get practice in learning to understand their feelings and handle them, a process which takes time and lots of practice with adult help."

Time-outs won't address the real problem. Parents typically use time-outs when their toddler is "out of control" and needs to calm down. But banishing a child to the corner to regain control of their emotions hardly ever works. “Toddlers are just figuring out who they are and what their emotions are about,” notes Klein. "They are far from being able to handle these emotions on their own and count on adults to help them." If you're thinking time-outs are "working" for your child, think again. While your child may stop misbehaving in front of you, the problem isn't really solved. Siblings may stop fighting in front of Mom and Dad, but a time-out won't make them get along. Similarly, your kids might behave like angels in front of you but "misbehave" behind your back. The behavior will continue; the kids just try to avoid getting "caught."

There are healthier forms of discipline that will serve your child's emotional needs now -- and make them emotionally intelligent later. Children, of course, need to learn there are consequences for inappropriate behavior, but these consequences should be explained, understood, and never done out of anger or rage. "When a ‘bad’ behavior occurs, address the feeling underlying it by naming it, and giving the child another way to express it," suggests Klein. "Putting words to feelings is part of how children learn to regulate or handle them." For instance, say, "I know you're angry that we can't do that now, but I won’t let you hit me. Here is a pillow to hit." By meeting the behavior and letting your kid convey it in a more acceptable way, "the child does not have to worry that they have lost their parent's love and approval," says Klein. Zak Zarbock, M.D., pediatrician and founder of Zarbee's Naturals, recommends you practice "positive parenting" techniques with your kids. "Positive parenting is something that takes a conscientious effort and builds over time," says Dr. Zarbock. It involves building a relationship of love and trust with your child and letting him know that feelings like anger, frustration, and sadness are normal and okay. (How would you like to be put in a time-out whenever you argued with someone?) The bottom line is to teach kids how to express their emotions in a healthy way that works for everyone rather than suppressing them. After all, loving our kids and raising them in the most positive way we can is what it's all about.

How do you manage your child's inappropriate behavior?

by on May. 2, 2014 at 2:05 PM
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by on May. 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM
2 moms liked this
Is this article serious? I'm am seriously cracking up right now. It seems that no matter what type of discipline a parent uses it is "hurting" their children. My husband and I have found time outs to be a very effective punishment for our children, and they have never expressed feeling "unloved" when they had to sit on a chair for a few minutes.
by on May. 2, 2014 at 2:24 PM
1 mom liked this

OMG This is just BS.  I am sorry.  In the heat of the moment and after they do the same thing 80 times, it is not "How are you feeling" but timeout.  My pediatricians all still recommend it. My kids think about what they did, I ask them why they were in timeout when they come out after a minute per their age.  They apologize.  You can try asking about emotions before and after, but they need that time to settle down.  Started them with DD 18 mths, and it's amazing what a difference her mood is when she comes out of timeout.  Her doctor said to start them for one minute, and she sits there so well and then comes out and says "ok" after I reintegrate whey she was in time out. She's then in a great mood.  Not showing signs on being unloved.

“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

          going crazy

by on May. 2, 2014 at 9:24 PM
I do all the time
by on May. 2, 2014 at 9:41 PM
1 mom liked this

 Seriously??? I do timeouts and I always end each time out with an explanation why he was in time out, an "I love you", and a hug and kiss. Is there any form of discipline that is considered "okay" anymore?!

by on May. 2, 2014 at 10:03 PM

I don't use time out as a form of punishment, but rather as a time to get ourselves under control so we can address a situation without yelling or hitting. We still address the emotions that are there and how we can express them appropriately.  My kids see me go into time out. Evidently I'm in the wrong too. I can see what they are saying if a parent never teaches them appropriate ways of exressing themselves.

 My dd is the only one that has issues with her emotions, but she is developmentally delayed and has issues with processing so it is to be expected. 

by on May. 3, 2014 at 10:17 AM
2 moms liked this

 How in the hell are we supposed to discipline our kids.

Spankings: OMG YOU hit your kid, you are abusing them.

Timeout: They are ineffective

Taking things away: It's their stuff, how dare you take their stuff

Hell we might at just let the little brats run wild and do whatever they want because we are "hurting" them no matter how we discipline.

by on May. 3, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Time outs work for ds. We dont use a chair or spot. We send him to his room for 2 min... or how ever old he is
by on May. 3, 2014 at 10:29 AM
4 moms liked this
This is exactly the problem with kids today. When I was a kid, and I misbehaved, my Gran would go get a switch. It took one swat and we learned our lesson. If we were in the car and we were being brats, my Gran would say, "Bill, pull over. I'ma get me a switch." And you know what? We straightened right the hell up and she didn't even get out of the car.

I think people need to just back the hell off and let parents discipline their children. There is a difference between a spanking and abuse. Time-outs didn't scar me for life. They are forms of discipline that sure as hell fixed my behavior.
by on May. 3, 2014 at 10:39 AM
I use timeout. I will continue using it. In this world we are damned if we do damned if we don't.
by on May. 3, 2014 at 12:28 PM

omg, no matter how you discipline a kid its abuse.....I'msorry, but not every kid and not in every situation will talking work. He gets 3 min, when i tell him he can come out i let him know why he was in time out, using the dog as a pony, Mommy having to say stop more than 1 time for example. Then i give him a hug, tell him next time listen, or be nice to the dog and we go about our day

Ds gets time outs, and after 3 time outs for the same thing, he is spanked.

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