Why you should NOT use time-out to correct children

A few years ago moms called it, the corner. Now that name evolved to time-out. It is supposed to be a more flexible variant to correct children’s behavior. The idea is to have a five-minute pause for the child to “reflect”. However, many experts disagree with this procedure. Why you shouldn’t use time-out on your kids.

What is time-out?

Time-out is defined, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as a behavior modification technique in children. It consists of removing your child from where the misbehavior happened and getting no attention at all for one minute for every year of the child’s age, without exceeding ten minutes.

It must be applied right after the misbehavior and there are four variants:

  • Isolation time-out: Sending the child to a place alone
  • Exclusionary time-out: The child remains in place but is denied access to family activities. You can cover your eyes, for example.
  • Non-exclusionary time-out: The child can stay in place, without accessing the social link, while witnessing how others interact with each other.
  • Self-imposed time-out: Very useful for parents. They undergo a time-out in order to avoid confrontations.

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Why you should NOT use time out with children

Although many moms and dads are getting back to the time-out technique, experts say it’s not recommended.

Alejandra Velasco, parenting expert, author of books such as ¡Ayuda, tengo hijos! (Help, I have children!) and El lenguaje del cariño entre padres e hijos (The language of affection between parents and children), gives an example, “Your daughter is watching the Princesses show on television and your son comes and takes the remote control to change the channel.

Obviously, they start fighting for the remote control. Then, what do you do? You come to the place and say, ‘Children, stop. Time out’. You send the boy to a separate space and the girl to another. You turn off the TV and both of them face the consequence”.

According to the expert, the problem in this specific case is that time-out was applied to both of them, without investigating.

“Perhaps the boy who started the fight with his sister did need the consequence because it was the girl’s TV time, but the mother applied the measure to both kids”. “The problem with time-out”, says Velasco, “is that it cuts off communication. I imagine the times when educators seated the children in the corner with a set of donkey ears. It is very ridiculous when they say, he is three years old, three minutes, one minute per year of age.

Do you think the child will reflect at that time?” By not resolving the conflict and only separating them, instead of it being a time of reflection, which is not yet fully understood by the children, it will only bring anger.

“Children are only left with anger and resentment. There are times that parents send them punished to their bedroom and then at night they want them to sleep in the same place where they were punished”.

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What alternatives are there to correct children?

The key word, indicates the specialist, is to apply conflict resolution tools.

“With the time-out strategy, both parent children get frustrated, they get upset. Isn’t it better to ask what happened first? Time-out is an authoritarian approach, the mother exercises her authority and imposes the punishment. Did you listen to your children? Did you see what was happening? Do you think your five-year-old will reflect if you isolate him for 5 minutes?”

“You have to teach children resolution skills. Ask both children their arguments. ‘Let’s see what happened sweetie, why did you get angry with your brother?’ ‘It’s just that he didn’t let me watch the Princesses show’. ‘Let’s see, my boy, why did you change the channel?’ ‘Because I also want to watch my program’. ‘So let’s come to an agreement. Monday and Wednesday, you can watch the Princesses and Tuesday and Thursday, you can watch your program. And there is a chance that if you tell me calmly that you want to watch your show, I’ll let you watch it in my room, but you don’t have to be abusive with your sister’. The important thing is that you don’t send them to the corner without a resolution”, she explains.

It is a humiliating method

Alejandra Velasco indicates that the fact that the conflict is not fully resolved is not the only negative point of time-out, it has other consequences that could harm our children. I am against time-out because, in addition to not solving anything, it embarrasses, humiliates, hurts, takes away love and sends the child away to another place. How do the children feel?

Isolated and abandoned. Remember that conduct and love do not go hand in hand.

“Those ladies who reject a hug as a way of punishing because the child misbehaved are making a mistake. Let’s see, he is hugging you, he is telling you ‘I know that I did something wrong, but I love you’. And the mother says, ‘Go over there’. Along with rejection comes insecurity, anxiety, confusion, and low self-esteem. If you’re treating your child like this, you’re stepping on him”.

For Velasco, the schools that apply time-out with their students are wrong, too. “A teacher told me, ‘It’s good for me’, but I don’t agree with that because, if you send a student to the corner, you humiliate him and he feels ashamed. Even more if you are in a classroom. Imagine telling him in front of all the classmates. ‘Go to the corner!’ And what do the other twenty children do? Well, they shout, ‘Booohhh!’ And some to make fun of him”.

But that’s not all, applying the time-out just because you saw it on a TV show or because someone recommended it, is meaningless and has no impact at all. “If a mother has never handled time-out all and suddenly wants to apply it by telling her child, ‘Sit over there, time-out’. The child will simply say, ‘I’m not leaving, why?’ And there you have a mother trying to force a kid to the corner and the child ends crying. And she concludes, ‘One minute, if you stand up again, it will be five more minutes’. I ask those moms, ‘Don’t you have any disciplinary tools?’ Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that”, the expert concludes.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version

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