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The Effective of Timeouts

Posted on 5 June, 2019 at 1:40

While many parents use the timeout technique to punish their misbehaving children, the effectiveness of this has been widely criticised by parenting experts. Timeout involves placing your child in a quiet and isolated area for a period of time after they have misbehaved. It intends to allow the child to reflect on what they have done wrong. However, experts argue that this may neglect a child’s emotional needs. According to Bonnie Compton (child & adolescent therapist and parenting coach), “Children experience a sense of abandonment when placed in time out. There is a loss of contact, which can be interpreted as a loss of parents’ love.” This is particularly common in younger children, who often believe that this isolation is a result of being so bad that their parents don’t want to be around them. Additionally, children with a predisposition to anxiety may be more susceptible to the negative effects of timeouts. Psychiatrist Edward V. Haas states that the threat of, or actual separation from those who protect them can cause severe anxiety and psychological discomfort in the child. A child who experiences frequent isolation from their parents is more likely to feel like they have no firm support system. Another criticism of the timeout method is that it simply does not work as children have not yet developed the cognitive skills to think abstractly, and therefore fail to understand why they are in timeout. So, what’s the alternative? Experts recommend sitting with your child when they misbehave, talking them through their emotions and explaining what they did wrong and why they shouldn’t do it, in a calm manner. This provides an opportunity for both the parent and child to better understand each other and learn from the situation.

On the other hand, while isolating the child is not recommended, some experts believe that a different form of timeout can work for some children. This involves removing the child from the situation in which they are misbehaving (such as a party or playdate) and staying with them until they are able to settle down. During this time, the parent can then calmly explain why their behaviour was inappropriate, providing a calmer environment where the child still feels a sense of love and warmth.


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