Do Timeouts Do More Harm Than Good?
- October 12, 2020
- Posted by: Kali Arnold
- Category: Tips
I know it may be hard to believe but I was not the best child growing up. I was overly energetic, mischievous, and precocious way beyond my years. I spent a lot of time with my face in the corner because of some displeasing thing I had said or done. I can tell you that as a self-proclaimed timeout expert, this did not improve my behavior. If anything, it made it worse. I would spend my time angry and embarrassed that I had once again been isolated from the class. Then I would begin plotting my next devilish act. Revenge, if you will, for putting me in the corner. So, like I said, I spent a lot of time in timeout.
Why Timeout Does Not Work
There have been several studies that support that a timeout is not the best way to discipline our children. A study done by the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that timeouts are effective in getting toddlers to cooperate, but only temporarily. The authors of the study, Michael Chapman and Carolyn Zahn-Wexler (International Journal of Behavioral Development 5), discovered that children misbehaved more than children who weren’t disciplined with timeouts. This is consistent with a study by Martin Hoffman (Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology) on love withdrawal as a punishment technique, which shows that kids subjected to it tend to exhibit more misbehavior, worse emotional health, and less developed morality.
Why Timeout Does Not Help Kids
1. It does not help children deal with their emotions. Children are not equipped with the tools to de-escalate and regulate emotions so it is important to provide them with methods to calm themselves down. When placed in isolation without the means to feel better can make the child feel worse about themselves, and in return, continue to misbehave.
2. Most children are fearful of being placed in timeout. When a parent uses fear as punishment and only allows the child to come out when they are being a “good girl or boy” can have adverse long term effects on the child. This instills an idea that if they are not “good” they will be isolated or abandoned. This can lead to unhealthy relationships into adulthood.
3. Timeouts can create a riff between you and your child. Oftentimes, punishment turns into a power struggle. The child begins the view the parent has “the enemy” and is not interested in pleasing them.
What is the Alternative to Timeouts?
Timeouts are not great for kids but they are good for adults. When you find yourself angry or frustrated with your child’s behavior, give yourself a moment to stop, breathe, listen, and then respond. Giving yourself this moment to calm down will already improve the outcome of the outburst.
Create a calming corner. A calming corner is a peaceful and fun place where kids can get away from whatever is bothering them and help regulate their emotions before returning to class. This also works in a home setting when a child is having an outburst or feeling anxious. It is important for this space to be somewhere your child wants to go. It should provide the appropriate toys, sounds, textures, and activities they can use to calm down. Don’t know how to create a calming corner? Get our FREE calming corner guide here. Once you have your calming corner set up, read our blog post on fun activities for your child to do in their new safe space.