Discipline and time out, is it really the best way?

Time-out has been a popular form of discipline for a while now, but many parents wonder if it really benefits their child, or if there are any good alternatives.

It works by setting rules, or limits on a child’s behaviour, and then if they ignore the rules, or warnings about their behaviour, they will be given a ‘time out’. This time out means the child must sit alone somewhere (often on the stairs, or in a quiet corner), for a set amount of time, to think about their actions. This punishment is based on exclusion and reflection, with the intention of allowing the child time to regret their actions and learn their lesson… But many parents feel it is negative in its approach and can instead create feelings of resentment and rejection.

Negative feelings that may be caused by ‘time out’

My emotions, feelings and behaviours are not acceptable ”
It may be true, some behaviours aren’t acceptable, but emotions, especially to young children, are raw and very real. These feelings need to be respected and regulated. A child’s feelings cannot simply be put into a corner until a more convenient time, and doing so can inadvertently cause a child to bottle-up their anger and any other negative emotions.

My parents do not love me unconditionally :
All children are naughty from time-to-time, but the feeling of rejection that can accompany a ‘time out’ can make children feel that their behaviour has caused their parents to stop loving them. Young children can fear total abandonment, especially when parents are out of sight, which in turn causes more bad behaviour and clinginess.

I’m not worthy of love :
Using ‘time out’ as a punishment is actually a form of withdrawing your love and care, and forcing a state of isolation. In a sense, it is trying to shame children into behaving better, but very often young children simply can’t understand why they have been put aside. Usually, only short periods of time are used for a ‘time out’ but the younger the child, the longer those periods can seem.

I’m going to fight this! :
Often parents simply find that ‘time out’ is ineffective or that they spend more time and effort trying to keep their little one in the ‘naughty spot’ than they would have done by supporting and nurturing them through the bad behaviour.

There are many other ways to instil good behaviours and support our children through difficult and emotional times. At our Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare Centres in NSW, we teach the children in our care with positive guidance using reason, empathy, questions and discussions. Ensuring learning, and learning to be good, is never a negative experience.

Also see our helpful articles on avoiding tantrums, hitting and biting behaviours.