Time-Out: Do Time-Outs Really Work? Problems with Time-Out (And What to do Instead)

Problems with time out and alternatives to time out
Problems with time out and alternatives to time out

Problems with time out and alternatives to time outYour pediatrician recommended it, your friends swear by it, and your child’s preschool uses it incessantly. But, every time YOU try to send your child to time-out, the 5-minute time-out turns into a 30-minute throwdown of epic proportions.

For most parents, using time-out to “teach kids a lesson” often increases the power struggle and ends in frustration, anger, and fails to achieve the desired outcome.

Or, in other cases, getting the child to go to time-out isn’t necessarily a battle, but the child continues to misbehave once their time in the corner is finished.

While well-meaning parents have used time-out as an alternative to more punitive methods like spanking, it doesn’t seem to reap the long-term benefits we hope for. After all, we are running a marathon, aren’t we?

When we take a short-sighted approach to discipline, we leave the door open for long-term problems. Sure, a time-out might curb a behavior in the moment, but it doesn’t promote our long-term goal of raising emotionally stable, resilient, and empathetic children.

If you are a proponent of time-out, this is not a finger-waving post of judgment, I promise. I, too, was once a time-out queen myself. But, as I found the tool to be increasingly ineffective in my home, I knew I needed other tactics.

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Is Time Out a good discipline technique?

Parents are often quick to use “Time Out” as a discipline tool because it is a widely used practice.  Physicians, teachers, and other parents frequently recommend “Time Out” as a way to correct common misbehaviors.  The problem with this thinking is, “Time Out” most often increases the intensity of the power struggle.

“Time Out” is not the same as removing the child from the situation.  For children under the age of 3, using one or more of the Remove and Redirect strategies are most helpful:

· Remove the object

· Remove the child from the environment  (This is not “Time Out”)

· Redirect the child’s attention

· Redirect the child’s activity

After the age of three (and even younger for some children), they understand that they are “independent beings” and using “Time Out” will only intensify the power struggle.  We cannot impose our will on another human being – even a child.  When we try to exercise power over a child, they will naturally fight back.  How can we possibly force a child to stay in “Time Out”?  Some children who are less “spirited” may do as they are told and remain in “Time Out” for the prescribed time – but what are they learning about their misbehavior? Are they sitting in “Time Out” thinking about their poor choice and about how they will do things differently next time?  Probably not!  Most likely they are “stewing” over how unfair it is that Mom or Dad sent them to “Time Out”!

How is “Time Out” related to most misbehaviors?  In most cases, it isn’t.

For consequences to be effective and to provide learning for future behaviors, they must meet the criteria of the 4 R’s.

You will learn about the 4 R’s as well as many other tools to address misbehaviors by enrolling in Positive Parenting Solutions Online.