Time- outs and Parenting

Time- outs and Parenting

It is normal for parents to act and take measures, when their child misbehaves or engages in undesirable behaviour. Time – out is one such technique, which is used to modify the behaviour of an individual by separating the person from the environment where the undesirable behaviour has taken place. Usually parents take their kids away from the setting and confine them in a space, where they would receive neither any entertainment, nor any attention. This is done so that the child realises that his/her action was not entertained, and that they shouldn’t repeat the same in the future.

Time -Out is a discipline technique which has proven to be very effective in its nature. By isolating the children, it helps them think and reflect on their behaviour, and discourages them to display the same behaviour in the future. This technique also helps the children by providing them with a safe and a designated space to calm down. Though time – out is an excellent behaviour correction technique, it has met with a lot of backlash by some experts in the recent past. The effectiveness and usefulness of this method is often debated with notable arguments on either side. According to some of experts, time – out results in the children dealing with stress, and other emotional problems later on in their lives, making it an ineffective way of disciplining one’s child.

However, a recent research study conducted at the Michigan State University, has found that time – outs are not only effective in disciplining the kids, but also do not have any negative impacts on the children, later on in their lives. The study which was conducted by psychologist Knight, had compared two different group of kids. One group consisted of the children who were regularly given time – outs, and the other group consisted of the children who were not given a single time – out, in a span of eight years. The study found out that there was no difference between the two groups of children.

Another study conducted by psychologist Drayton and her colleagues, found out that around 30 percent of websites portrayed inaccurate information on time – outs. They say that the method is often misunderstood. Because a lot of media reports and online sources present conflicting views on effects of time – outs, it can be confusing for parents.

So, to avoid the confusion what can parents actually do? They could meet up with professionals such as psychiatrists, counsellors or psychologists and clarify their doubts. For example, half of the parents are not aware that time – outs are currently recommended by the American Association of Paediatrics as one of the only child discipline strategies.

Though it is an easy process, some parents are unaware, of the correct usage of the time – out method. They must remember that consistency, calm demeanour and a positive, loving environment are the essential keys to using the method of a time – out. There may be cases, where the parents may be using the method for the first time and may face a lot of trouble with the child, but slowly both the parent and the child tend to get used to the practice. Apart from consulting an expert, parents can implement time-outs in the following ways

  • Explain to your child what time – out is (quiet – time, calm – down time, thinking time, etc. for specific bad behaviour) and how it will work, when both of you are in calm mood. Answer any questions they have.
  • Focus on only one behaviour (hitting, swearing, throwing toys etc.) at a time that needs to be changed. Clarify this with your child – What will he/she get time – out for?
  • Specify the “time – limit” of time – out and convey to your child. Keep it short and age – appropriate. Example: 1min or 3min (for a very bad behaviour).
  • Fix a spot for time – outs as well with your child. Be consistent, but do not overdo it (like not using it for every small behaviour). It should fit seriousness of the problem.
  • Give a warning. When a child misbehaves, the parents can start by warning their kids about their behaviour and inform them that such a behaviour would lead them to having a time – out.
  • Communicate with them after time – out and after they have calmed down. The specific act/behaviour they got time – out for and the consequences of it. Reason helps them to think next time.
  • Praise: remember to praise and appreciate the positive and desirable behaviour every time, do it often. This conveys to them that their good behaviour will get them attention.
  • Teach them strategies like breathing, drawing, writing, talking to someone etc. (taking help for stress management) to deal with difficult situations and emotions that lead to undesirable behaviour.

Time – outs are a tool that can be effective in addressing behaviour challenges across several ages: pre-schoolers, school-age children and adolescents. Best age to introduce time-outs is 3-to-8 years

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