Using a ‘Time-Out’ Appropriately Can Provide a Big Boost

Using a ‘Time-Out’ Appropriately Can Provide a Big Boost

Time-out or no time-out? It’s a question parents often contemplate when trying to get their child to calm down. A recent study in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics looks at whether taking a time-out has any negative long-term effects on our children.

“This study was looking at time-outs over several years, and found there were no long-term effects for kids that were put in ‘time-out’ versus those kids that weren’t, and they looked at emotional and behavioral functioning,” said Dr. Emily Mudd, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, who did not take part in the study. 

The study looked at data from a national study of more than 1,000 children.

The results showed no association between use of time-outs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggression or self-control.

Mudd says if parents use a time-out appropriately — to help a child self-regulate, and not as a punishment — they can be effective.

She said if a child is acting out, or having a tantrum, they need guidance to help them regulate their emotions, as very small children don’t yet have the skills to do so on their own.

Mudd recommends trying to name the feeling first.

Say things like, “I can see that you’re very angry right now,” which may help the child begin to manage their emotions, and a time-out may not be necessary.

But, she cautions that not all kids are the same, and just because a time-out works for one child does not mean it will work for another.

If parents do choose to use a time-out, Mudd says it’s best to keep it short.

“If you are going to use time-outs and it’s something that works for your family, a good rule of thumb is to do one minute per year of age, starting, not much younger than age 1 — 18 months would really be the youngest age we would recommend,” she says. “So, a 2-year-old would get two minutes of time-out, and at that age, it’s just really teaching them how to regulate their bodies.”

Mudd reminds parents that children receive a lot of negative feedback throughout the day, whether it’s “don’t do this” or “stop doing that.” So, if time-outs are used, make sure a child is also praised when they’re behaving appropriately.

— Source: Cleveland Clinic

1 Comment

  1. What gets most overlooked about the “controversial” topic of a timeout is that there is no magic to the phrase itself. Whether or not timeouts work has everything to do with how the parent uses the term. This piece doesn’t clear that up.
    The concept of a time out with a child is the same as a concept of a time out in sports – where the term originated. You don’t “put” a child into time out; that’s more like handing out a penalty or punishment. Likewise, in sports, the referee doesn’t “put” a player or team into time out. The player or coach “calls” time out so the team can regroup. There is no penalty or judgment when a time out is taken; the clock merely stops and play is temporarily suspended.
    Timeouts for children work well when handled in the same spirit.
    As a parent, when it’s time to call timeout, you don’t send the child away to a “timeout corner” to think about what he or she has done; that would be more like a penalty or punishment. Instead, you take the time out together so the child (and perhaps you as well) can calm down gently, without anger or penalty.
    That’s all a time out is: An effective way to give a young child time, space and loving support to learn how to calm him/herself down. Very little talking is needed during a timeout, because a timeout recognizes that the child is not able, at that moment, to reason or think rationally. If there is any talking, it should be gentle reassurances by the parent that 1) everybody gets overwhelming feelings from time to time; 2) the feeling will pass soon enough; and 3) you never stop loving or caring for the child – even when there are rough moments.
    When handled in this spirit, there’s no need to ask about an age-appropriate length for a timeout, as the article offers. If you’re sitting calmly and lovingly with the child, 1) he/she won’t feel as though he/she has been sent away and abandoned, and 2) you’ll know when the timeout should end, because everybody has calmed down.

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