Time outs are a popular method of discipline used by parents and endorsed by purported parenting experts like Super Nanny on T.V. However this method of discipline does little to help kids regulate their emotions and lots to get in the way of the parent-child relationship. It teaches kids that when they are having big feelings that they can’t manage alone, that they will be punished and have to deal with those feelings without the caring adult in charge of helping them. Most kids spend that time feeling resentful toward their parent and thinking about anything other than feeling sorry.
Child development experts have recently weighed in on the debate and the results don’t look good for the future of time outs.
Time Outs Hurt
Dr. Dan J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson have made the case against time outs in their recent book, “No Drama Discipline.” Siegel, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, the founding co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and the executive director of the Mindsight institute.
From their study of brain scans, relational pain caused by isolations looks a lot like physical abuse on the brain. Repeated experiences of isolations actually change the physical structure of the brain over time. The primary goal of a time out is isolation. While it is presented a being more patient and loving than corporal punishment or spanking, it sends the message that the parent is only interested in being with the child when he has his feelings under control.
The issue is that children need to be connected with their parents and they suffer when they have to suffer alone with feelings of emotional distress. When children act out of emotions, they need support and connection to work through them. Time out does the opposite of this. Time outs isolate the child from the parent when the child needs the parent most.
Time outs also fail to change behavior. Time outs robs them of the opportunity to gain insight or solve the problem at hand. Over time, time outs negatively affect children, making them angrier and less able to regulate their emotions.
The experts recommend, instead, “Time ins.” This involves sitting with the child and talking or comforting them through the negative emotions. This teaching children that they don’t have to be perfect or deal with their feelings alone: lessons that we hope they will carry into adulthood.