is time out bad for your kids?
Time out has recently been described by several experts as a humiliating and “deeply wounding” punishment technique that should never be used in disciplining children. These ridiculous comments are based upon the following.
1. “Time out teaches kids that they are bad people.” When a child is briefly isolated from a situation because of an unacceptable behavior, I advise parents to clearly state the reasons for the correction. The intent is to distinguish between what a child does and who the child is. The behaviors are bad. The child is not. There is nothing wrong with telling children that what they did was wrong.
2. “We should strive to understand why a child misbehaves, rather than use time out to punish them.” Imagine a situation where a five-year old hits a younger sister during play time. Perhaps the older child is jealous of the sibling, or maybe just wants the younger child’s toy. At the moment the bad behavior occurs, it doesn’t matter why the child hit his sister. Time out is a great technique to deliver the message that hitting a sibling is never allowed.
It is important to understand the conditions that prompt a child’s misbehavior. Disruptive behavior can often be avoided when kids get adequate exercise and sufficient sleep. Kids’ misconduct can also be minimized when parental rules are clear and consequences are applied consistently.
Parents and many psychologists waste lots of time trying to decipher the “real reason” why children misbehave. Except in special circumstances, the causes of kids’ misbehavior are typically unknown and unknowable.
3. “Time out doesn’t teach kids what they should do.” That’s correct. The purpose of time out is to teach kids that their misbehavior is unacceptable. Whenever I’ve recommended that technique, I’ve always helped parents develop a plan to reward children’s good behaviors.
4. “Time out is punishment. All punishment of kids is bad.” There are lots of legitimate concerns about hitting kids, and I’ve never recommended (or used) spanking as a discipline technique. However, that doesn’t mean that all punishment of children is wrong.
Punishment occurs any time a child receives negative feedback, so I’ll admit that time out is a form of punishment. So what? Punishment also occurs when a child is sternly reprimanded by their parent, given a bad grade in school, or sent to their room.
Punishment, when combined with positive techniques, is a powerful and very appropriate way to discipline children.
No discipline technique works for all kids under every situation. However, time out is an effective technique to correct bad behavior.