Why Your Timeouts Don’t Work

May 2, 2013  |  

Different parents discipline their kids differently, but one of the most popular methods a lot of parents agree on is the timeout. It turns out they don’t work that well but mostly because parents aren’t doing them right, said Double X.

Melinda Wenner Moyer found in her research that sometimes timeouts don’t work and can even make behavioral problems worse, but that has more to do with how they’re done. A timeout done well means “ignoring, removing, or withholding parent attention to decrease the frequency or intensity of undesirable behaviors”, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. These methods are “especially important in promoting positive child behavior.” And while that can sound a little mean, the timeout works because parents are supposed to be putting “time-in” with their kids, creating a happy, rich environment with lots of ways to learn and explore. Without that, a kid may feel like acting out is a chance to make things better. Says Double X, “If you rarely praise, hug, or interact positively with little Sammy, then acting up may be the only way he can get your attention, and for a kid, negative attention (such as when parents get mad) is better than no attention.”

The situation you use for a timeout is important, too. If you give a timeout during a fun activity, kids will learn, but if the timeout takes your kid out of something he hates, he may just be grateful. Parents are also cautioned to make sure their kids are actually misbehaving instead of just not understand what they’re supposed to do. Be aware of your child’s developmental stage, experts say. Be sure when giving a timeout you explain to children what they did wrong without labeling them; say, “You’re on timeout for hitting your sister” instead of “Stop being bad.” And when you put little Johnny on timeout, make sure you walk away and leave him there. Parenting experts say the problem a lot of parents have with timeouts is they spend too much time with their kids during the timeouts. And think about getting rid of the timeout chair; kids don’t need to be physically separated from an activity so much separated from the fun activities.

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