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My goal is to provide you with tools that help inform, empower and boost your confidence as a parent so you can make the best decisions possible for you and your family.  Parenting is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. I am here to guide you through the 3D Parent approach to parenting, so you can stop struggling and start celebrating all of the time you have with your children.

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Time-Outs: Are They In Or Out?

May 19, 2021

 

“Time-outs use your relationship as something that can be given and then taken away; it makes your relationship with your child conditional.”

Time-outs are a widely utilized parenting technique. A time-out is a punitive consequence used to “teach a lesson” to a child. While this technique is popular and recommended by many professionals, there is evidence that time-outs do much harm and very little good for the parent-child relationship. That’s why in this episode of The 3D Parent Podcast, I will share why time-outs are problematic and suggest ways to discipline without using time-outs.

Points we will discuss include:

  • Why time-outs are so widely used
  • How time-outs can strain the parent-child relationship
  • Alternative strategies to using time-outs

Discipline choices either contribute or detract from the conditions which are optimal for growth, maturation, and the development of self-control. You cannot force maturity through time-outs. In fact, you may even stall true maturation and make it more difficult to have the power to influence your child through your deep connection. 

Perhaps it is the time-out itself which needs a time-out! I hope that you will think twice before giving a time-out and try a connecting strategy instead.

 


 

Things You Will Learn

[00:04] Time-outs are a widely utilized parenting technique. A time-out is a punitive consequence used to “teach a lesson” to a child. When utilizing a time-out, parents will put children in social isolation, often sending them to a room, step, or chair and limiting any contact for an allotted time. While this technique is popular and recommended by many professionals, there is evidence that time-outs do much harm and very little good for the parent-child relationship. In this episode, I will share why time-outs are problematic and suggest ways to discipline without using time-outs.

[03:12] Why do parents use time-outs, and how did they become so popular? One main reason for attention on time-outs was an effort to cut back on parents spanking their children and using other forms of physical punishment. Another reason is that it was popularized on the show Super Nanny. When I had my first daughter, time-outs were recommended to me by my pediatrician. I committed to using time-outs with my daughter, but I found that I had to put her in time-outs multiple times a day. While she would temporarily behave, she would eventually exhibit problematic behaviors all over again. I later learned that the use of time-outs was ineffective with her and that it wasn’t getting at the root issue.

[10:05] So, do time-outs work? It depends on what you define as “working.” While it can temporarily stop a behavior, it also has a cost. Any form of what appears to be “working” is a temporary illusion. Time-outs are problematic because they use the parent-child relationship as something to be given and then taken away. That can cause developmental ramifications that are not obvious at first. The reason they appear to work is because they cause alarm in children, making them feel abandoned, unloved, rejected, and confused. This alarm causes children to temporarily “act” more mature and loveable. While that may be pleasant to receive, it is not authentic maturity that has caused this change in behavior. It is because your child is acting out of their fear of you.

[14:34] In the article “The Trouble with Time-outs” by Dr. Deborah MacNamara, she writes, “Our kids need to rest in our relationship and not work to keep it. We must be the ones to hold onto them, and what is clear is that time-outs make our kids work for love.” The reality is that time-outs increase power struggles and place our emphasis and energy on controlling our children.

[17:18] If you’re not yet convinced that time-outs are doing more harm than good, here are some questions to ask yourself that may show that your use of time-outs is not working as well as you think they are.

  • You are putting your child in time-out every day, or multiple times per day.
  • Your child calls out for you the whole time they are in time-out.
  • You need to hold the door or lock the door to keep your child in time-out.
  • Time-out is your solution to every mistake your child makes.
  • You are using time-out as the same consequence for the same repeated behavioral issue.
  • While the problematic behavior may stop, it is never fully addressed and returns shortly after.
  • You are sensing that your relationship with your child is strained or that you are feeling less capable of disciplining your child without time-outs, threats, or punishments.

[19:06] Are time-outs ever okay? One exception I make is to separate fighting siblings. This is not a punitive measure; it is simply a temporary separation to give children a break from one another. Another example is a “parent time-out.” Sometimes we need a momentary separation from our children in order to keep our emotions and reactions in line. However, use this with caution. Do not let children know you are taking a time-out. Just make an excuse to leave such as going to the bathroom or making a call. You don’t want to cause further alarm in your child.

[22:22] What can parents do instead of time-outs? One idea comes from positive parenting circles, and that’s to take a “time-in.” I often call it “taking a break.” This means spending time with your child away from the incident. Find some privacy, and tell your child you will address the behavior later. Allow your child to vent and express emotions, stay present and name their feelings, and comfort them in their frustration. This process teaches them emotional regulation.

[25:17] You can also use a “time-in” when a child is breaking a rule or not following a direction. Find a private space, and get on your child’s level. Acknowledge how they feel, and then tell them what you need them to do. This provides an opportunity to address the problem and give them clear direction. I often tell my children, “I know I can count on you.” I say I know I can count on them to do a different behavior instead the next time.

[29:13] Discipline choices either contribute or detract from the conditions which are optimal for growth, maturation, and the development of self-control. You cannot force maturity through time-outs. In fact, you may even stall true maturation and make it more difficult to have the power to influence your child through your deep connection. Perhaps it is the time-out itself which needs a time-out! I hope that you will think twice before giving a time-out and try a connecting strategy instead.

  


 

Episode Resources

The Trouble with Time-outs article by Deborah Macnamara 

Quotes From Episode 76

“The reality is that time-outs cause harm and do very little good.”

“Time-outs use your relationship as something that can be given and then taken away; it makes your relationship with your child conditional.”

“You cannot force maturity.”

 


 

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About Your Host

I’m Beaven Walters, your host and guide on this crazy and fulfilling journey as a parent.

As a certified parent coach, parent educator and mom of 4 children, I am passionate about helping parents navigate the tough stuff while maintaining dignity, direction and deep connection in your family relationships.  I have spent over 10 years teaching in a variety of educational settings with multiple age groups, and now I am delighted to bring those experiences to you at home. Throughout this podcast, we will cover topics such as tantrums, sibling conflict, screen time overload and transitioning into the teenage years.

My goal is to provide you with tools that help inform, empower and boost your confidence as a parent so you can make the best decisions possible for you and your family.  Parenting is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone.

I am here to guide you through the 3D Parent approach to parenting, so you can stop struggling and start celebrating all of the time you have with your children.