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Why time-out is outdated and harmful!

and what to do instead!

Why using timeout is harmful

Welcome to the Child Behaviour Blog.

When my children were young, I remember briefly using time-out because it was so well documented and used I thought it was the way to go. 

Unfortunately, I still feel anxious at the thought that I did this because although I can’t remember why I used it, I won’t forget how it made me feel.

I found it unhelpful and created drama and upset, which was the opposite of what I wanted. I questioned my beliefs that it was what I should be doing and looked for an alternative.

Even though I was trained and worked in my early years, vital information about positively managing children's behaviour was not widely known. Some years later, when I was introduced to Positive Parenting while studying psychology, I found the alternative I wanted and became passionate about spreading the word.

Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order TO make children Do better 
FIRST, we should make them feel WORSE?

Time-out has been criticised over the last few years by those who argue that the experience of isolating children when they are struggling emotionally can harm their well-being.

Originally used as an alternative to corporal punishment, time-out has fallen out of favour, with many who prefer the more loving, nurturing option.

Experts such as Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. believe time-out is ineffective in creating lasting behaviour change because isolating a child when they make a mistake or are having a hard time will make them feel abandoned in their time of need.

It further tells children, "If you haven't got it all together, then I am not interested in being there for you."

Time-out rules teach children that they will be forced to be alone when they make a mistake or have a hard time, making them feel rejected.

Forcing children to isolate often creates a power struggle at a time they usually need help regulating their emotions.

While time-out can make children feel abandoned, time-in is a more positive alternative that empathises with their struggles and makes them feel heard, validated, and connected with you.

Some experts argue that both approaches are valuable, and David Anderson, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says, "We want to give parents a toolbox that allows them to be both structured and nurturing."

Time-out can feel like physical pain

I have not personally encountered parents who have found time-out helpful, which is often one of the first things we alter when working together.

Studies in neuroplastisity may sway you more on the side of time-in, as they show that repeated experiences change the brain's physical structure.
Brain imaging shows that emotional pain caused by rejection in time-out is similar to the experience of physical pain in the brain.

Since parents often spend a significant amount of time handling unwanted behaviour throughout their child's lifetime, we must thoughtfully consider how we respond and use positive parenting strategies for child behaviour management to ensure their healthy development.

Time-out, or the "naughty chair," means that children suffer alone when they are actually struggling to communicate in a way that will explain how they are feeling.


Instead of using timeouts to discipline children, experts recommend using a positive parenting strategy called Time-In, where the child is given support and comfort. Our role is to create a safe and supportive environment where they can express themselves and their emotions without fear of judgment, interruption, or advice-giving. 

It involves being present with children and allowing them to process their thoughts and feelings at their own pace by holding space for them. Holding space requires empathy, active listening, and the willingness to suspend our own judgments and opinions. 

It is a way to support and validate their experience and emotions without trying to fix or solve their problems for them. This can include talking to your child about their behaviour, helping them to calm down, and providing comfort and reassurance. It is a way for children to go within themselves to learn to understand and manage their feelings and emotions effectively.

You might like to change the wording to be more child friendly, and I like to use Quiet Time because it explains what it is for.

Everyone needs quiet time now and again, so it is suitable and adaptable for all ages, depending on individual children, the space and the resources you have and on your preferences.  Young children may need you to sit with them to help them to feel safe with their emotions and calm down. Older children may have a quiet area they can go to independently or with an adult to help them calm their minds and relax before you talk with them.

There is no time limit when using quiet time, but with today's sensory overload of gadgets, it is time to switch them off and have some peace.

Quite time can be in various places, such as a comfortable chair or sofa or any quiet location in the house, such as the living room, on a bean bag or cushion. 
You can put things in this space, such as books, pens, pencils, paper, simple hobby crafts, journals or books for older children to write.

Use and replenish this area with age-appropriate things your child can do to soothe themselves and manage their uncomfortable emotions.

If you use time-out, I highly recommend using time-in instead. Try it out for yourself, and let me know how you get on.

All the best, 


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