Timeout a Classic Form of Discipline That Actually Works, Study Confirms

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids

timeout picture

Child acting up? Timeout may be the best course of discipline. Credit: Getty


The next question, class, is multiple choice.

Would you rather discipline your misbehaving child by:

A. Spanking him?

B. Forcing him to drink hot sauce?

C. Putting him on a 10-minute "timeout"?

If you answered C, congratulations. You may be one step ahead of researchers at Australia's University of Queensland, who just discovered timeouts are one of the most effective -- yet least aggressive -- ways to discipline a child.

In other words, you can spare the rod without spoiling the child. He may just need some alone time to simmer down and regain control of his behavior.

"This is not about shutting kids in cupboards or putting them in scary places," Matthew Sanders, professor of clinical psychology and founder of the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, tells the Vancouver Sun in British Columbia. "The controversy often stems from people who misunderstand the technique and what they're responding to is what they see as the rejection of children."

Researchers reviewed dozens of studies on the effectivness of timeouts. They concluded it works well -- provided you keep your cool when ordering one.

Sanders tells the Sun timeouts can de-fuse hostile parent-child situations. The more effectively and consistently they're used, he adds, the less they're needed.

Alyson Schafer, a Toronto-based parenting expert, tells the Sun she finds the research reaffirming. It should tell parents you can't go wrong with a classic.

That should be comforting, she tells the newspaper, in a world with no shortage of advice on how to discipline children. Most forms of corporal punishment have fallen by the wayside, she says, leaving parents scrambling for ideas.

"I call it the, 'Throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks' era," Schafer tells the Sun. "We're hungry for ideas. We're research maniacs. We're frightened to death of making a mistake because we're afraid it's going to create psychological damage forever. We're beating ourselves up, full of guilt because nobody can pull that off, which means when we do yell, we think, 'Oh my God, I know better,' so we beat ourselves up."

Maybe parents need timeouts, too. Schafer says moms and dads just need to relax and not worry so much.

"The common-sense advice will prevail," she tells the Sun. "It just may get buried under some of the gimmicky stuff."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.