Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

‘Time out’—Is it a punishment? Does it work?

Children lose self control–in grocery stores and doctors’ offices, on playgrounds, at school and even at home. What is the right response from a parent or teacher?

I am often asked if “time out” is a good response. Is it a “punishment:”?

All discipline should be viewed not as a punishment but rather as a way to help children gain (behavioral) control and express feelings appropriately.  The length and type of a “time out” should always depend on the developmental stage of the child and should be modified to suit a particular child’s needs. A child should always know that there will be an end to the “time out.”  Most children over age 3 are helped by having the time out timed in a visible way, e.g.,  with an hourglass-shaped timer.

“Time out” can be harmful if used as a punishment, or if it separates the child from adult caretakers in ways that cause the child to fear being abandoned.  So never leave a young child alone without assurance that an adult is present. And keep “time outs” short.

Good caretakers set clear limits and assure children that adults will help them by taking charge of any out-of-control behavior until the child can regain his or her own control.  When “time out” is offered in a spirit that respects developmental needs, it can work well.


Posted by karen on Monday, February 22, 2010 8:48 PM

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