Time outs are dated and ineffective

Many parents have heard of time-outs. The naughty step was made popular by the television show ‘super nanny’ and I’m sure many a times parents are driven to using these discipline tactics because you know, parenting is tough.

Children need connection not discipline

The thing is if you have to use a discipline method more than once, twice, three times. And if you are using things like the naughty step week after week then it’s really not affective and sadly your child isn’t going to learn whatever you are trying to teach them.

Not only that often when children are displaying outbursts of unwanted behaviour its generally because of some big feelings that they have got going on that perhaps they cannot express or communicate to you. Maybe they are hungry, tired, frustrated, sad, feeling disconnected from you. There are so many reasons but when we choose to reprimand behaviour opposed to enquiring “What’s going on for my child right now?” we can create even more disconnect in our parent/child relationship.

Imagine this scenario

You have had a really long day at work. In fact you are exhausted. You were up with your toddler during the night, your boss has given you a heavy work load and you haven’t ate since breakfast. You get through the door and your husband asks you a simple question. He asks “What would you like for dinner darling?” You have literally just walked through the door. You’ve been on a long commute and the last thing your brain can do is think about dinner. So you snarl back at him “God, I don’t know – just give me a break will you I’ve just walked through the door.”  Your husband is taken back by your aggressive tone, gives you that look – then tells you to go and sit on the stairs for 10 minutes until you have snapped out of it.

Ok, now if you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking – well I would appreciate the isolation and time to gather my thoughts (and thats because you’re an adult and adult brains can do such a thing)  however, that may not be what you needed and you maybe wanted your husband to put his arm round you and say “You look like you have had a bad day. I want to give you a cuddle. Don’t worry about choosing what you want to eat I’ll make something nice whilst you do what you need to do to switch off from the day.” Or he may make you a cup of tea, or suggest a bath… (Imagine how much conflict could be avoided from this kind of dialogue).

But instead you have been told to sit on the naughty step and now you are even more irritated and frustrated. You forget the day at work, the commute and the tiredness and now all you can think about is how much you hate your husband and how dare he push you away and make you sit on the stairs.

You see this is what happens to kids when you put them on time out.

They don’t actually learn a lesson but they start to burn up with resentment. They have ill feelings towards you because they feel rejected and dismissed. They feel sad, like they are a bad person, perhaps over time like they are unloveable.

So here’s a better suggestion:


We are relational beings and we crave and NEED connection.

We want to feel completely accepted for who we are whether we are happy, angry, mad, sad. We want all our feelings to be validated and we want to be unconditionally loved.

It is impossible for a child to always be behaving well. I mean us as adults don’t even behave well so we shouldn’t set the bar so high for children who cannot self regulate and their brains are developing at a rapid rate. We need to send a message to our child that we understand they are having a hard time and to allow them the space to let off that steam. This isn’t to say all behaviours are acceptable (because they are not) but we need to know that when children don’t feel right they can’t behave right and in those moments we as parents need to create a safe space for them. We need to of course set the limits and the boundaries but we need to let them know we are there for them.

Children don’t get that message when we isolate and push them away into a corner, onto a naughty step.

We want children to have secure attachments and to feel deeply connected to us.

So in these moments we need to find ways to connect and all too often our ability to tolerate our children’s emotions and behaviours is directly correlated to the ability to tolerate our own. So for instance if you got dismissed as a child for expressing your emotions you have likely learnt to shut off from expressing yourself so perhaps you get especially triggered when your child has an outburst of big feelings so you want to silence them as quickly as possible.

Children act as a mirror and we can start to become conscious around how we are triggered (and why) and also we can start reflecting back on how our own parents handled our emotions and behaviours when we were small so we can change the pattern with our own children.

If you are struggling with your child and find yourself resorting to using discipline methods like the naughty step or using a time out then book a video call with me today and find a more peaceful, respectful way to parent your child.