The Popular Discipline Tool You Should Never Use
For more positive discipline tips, listen to our podcast episode What is Positive Discipline?.
Supernanny touted these on her show as a great discipline tool and I saw her help families turn their monstrous children into absolute angels. So she must know what she’s doing right? What I did not realize at the time, which you think I would have since I worked in film and television, is that the right editing can show this amazing metamorphosis for pretty much any family regardless of how well or poorly behaved the children are on average! So I’ll admit that when my son was really young I tried time-outs. But I finally had an epiphany one day as I was practically sitting on my son to keep him there, that they just weren’t working for us. (Gee, you think?!) I realized that they had become a battle ground and the only thing they were succeeding in doing was hurting our relationship. He wasn’t learning anything. He was trying to figure out how to get out of it.
The scary part is, my professor of child development in graduate school actually taught them as part of the curriculum in ways to manage children’s behavior. Looking back, it’s simply shocking. When I decided I needed to find a better way, I did a lot of research, as is my tendency and my forte. That’s when I started learning so much about better ways of teaching children and helping them to learn better ways of behaving. Given my experience and my research, I was not at all surprised to learn what the latest research is now showing about the possible negative consequences to using time-outs.
As Jane Nelson shares in her books on Positive Discipline, while parents are expecting that children are reflecting and learning, Time outs actually have the tendency to:
- Break down respect, trust and attachment
- Negatively impact self-esteem
- Render the parent less effective in discipline
- Leave children feeling angrier & less able to think about their behavior
- Leave some children feeling rejected and misunderstood
Choosing a time-out over a positive discipline method actually means a child misses out on an opportunity to learn and build better skills.
Daniel Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, shares research that shows that repeated experiences, good or bad, can change the actual physical structure of the brain. The research also shows that in brain scans experiences of relational pain such as feelings of rejection look very similar to those experiences of physical pain.
The basic lesson science is learning, is that there are several negative effects of time out, and the positive outcomes that we as parents would hope to come from them, most of the time, are not. There are so many other discipline tools available that are much more affective in teaching the lessons and skills we want and need our kids to learn. For learn all about the alternative to time out and exactly how to use them, see our parenting class, No More Time Outs.