Time outs have become a parenting norm- that’s banned at my house.  Here’s why.

Why I Banned Time Outs

One day my daughter refused to go to a class I’d enrolled her in.  After begging, pleading, threatening, and more, I finally explained her other option was to go home and sit in time out for the length of the class.  On the way out of the building, I ran into an old friend.  We chatted for a few minutes before my daughter said, “hurry mom!  I’m ready to go home for time out!”  I realized timeouts were apparently not having the impact I was hoping for.

I remember when time outs became the norm for punishing kids.  It seemed like a great idea- a standard response for most situations.  Seems much easier and stable- kids know exacty what the punishment involves.  Plus, it can be very little work for the parent.  (although not always…)

Sometimes timeouts look like a great idea- the child has to stop doing their thing and the parent gets a minute.  Win/win!  But is it?

What does the child learn from sitting there?

That they don’t like to sit on command?   To a certain extent, that could be very helpful.  If that’s all that ever happens, what will they learn.   It seems there must be a better way to help teach the child the bigger picture.  After all, the goal here is a balanced, healthy person who knows how to handle various situations.  We all make mistakes and knowing how to handle those moments can be pivotal in many situations: making new friends, getting (and keeping) a job, future relationships, and more.

What are the kids supposed to do while they’re sitting there?

Feel bad?  Realize they’re not behaving the way they should?  Decide to be “better”?  This is the main reason I don’t find timeouts helpful.

I feel there must be better ways to help kids learn social skills and how to handle their emotions.  There are times it is helpful for a child to just sit.  From the outside it might look like a time out, but it’s really more focused than that.   I would give them something to focus on- a goal to reach or problem to solve.  “When you’re ready to be nice (or apologize, or pick up your toys, etc) call me and we’ll figure this out.”  When they do call, they might not be ready to change- just ready to move.  That’s fine!  Remind them why they’re there, redirect and give them another chance.  This focuses their time and helps them see what needs to change.

Instead of blank punishments I also like finding solutions to the problem they created.  One night, I had my roll-down blinds pulled and discovered my kids had drawn with pen ALL over them.  My first thought was “time out!” while I clean off the mess- but I ended up changing things a bit.  The kids were tasked with cleaning the pen off- not an easy feat.  It took about two hours but they persisted and realized the gravity of what they’d done.  I did help them off and on and tried to avoid having things be too negative.  They’ve never drawn on anything like that again {knock on wood} and overall the process was pretty positive.  Success!  They learned the WHY of the “don’t do that.”  (plus some cleaning points along the way)

What has worked at your house?

Why I Banned TIme Outs PT