To Time Out or Not to Time Out? That is the Question.

Little Girl's time out chair hasn't had too much traffic lately, which is nice.

I hope that no one comes knocking on my door when I say that I have spanked my daughter before. I want to qualify that I reserve physical force for situations of life-or-death importance. Little Girl has been spanked about three times in her life: all of them involved running into the street, or almost running into the street. I figure that getting a smack on the butt is better than getting hit by a car; if that’s what it takes to make her remember that it’s important not to play near cars, then so be it. I like to keep my children alive.

That being said, I occasionally need to discipline her for other reasons. I was reading a Janet Lansbury article that was advertised as having toddler-taming tips. However, two of the 9 “tips” on discipline were not what to do but what not to do. She said not to spank and not to give time-outs.

No spanking? I can pretty much live with that, obviously. Three times in three years is not a lot. However, if that seems like the best way to get the point across in a dangerous situation, you can bet I would do it again. I’d also smack my child’s hand if it meant that she’d stay away from the hot stove or an electrical socket. Even if I cause a small amount of pain, it’s nothing compared to what could happen if I didn’t interfere.

The quote that struck me about time-outs was: “Time out…of what? Time out of life?” (Magda Gerber). I think I see where she is coming from, in that there needs to be communication between the parent and child. But, no time-outs? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it to be a fairly effective tool for correcting behavior. Take this, for example: Little Girl grabbed a toy away from her brother, which made him cry. She’s old enough to know that this is not the way we treat others, so I took the toy from her and sent her directly to her time out chair. I told her to think about why we don’t take toys away from each other, and how she made her brother feel. I said that she could leave the chair when she was done crying and ready to talk to me about it.

When she left the time-out chair, we had a great discussion about how taking toys away makes people angry or sad. She said that she would have felt sad if her brother had taken her toy away, and that she understood it wasn’t a kind thing to do. She offered that she could have chosen to try and trade toys with her brother instead of taking the one he was playing with.

Now, was that a “time out of life?” To me, that was a teachable moment. What else could I have done? What are your thoughts on time-outs and discipline?

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12 thoughts on “To Time Out or Not to Time Out? That is the Question.

  1. An interesting topic. I don’t subscribe to its traditional use as a form of punishment with the assumption of a child’s independent reflection. There is such a thing as ‘time out of life’, it’s called jail. In both cases isolation and segregation without communication is less effective when correcting behaviour. However, I think Time Outs are necessary if used to help calm down the situation. Children get space to recover from being told they did something wrong and parents’ frustration can subside. Once everyone’s settled down a bit then any followup discussion would be more effective like the one mentioned in your post.

    • Very true…I like your jail analogy. We always use it as a calm-down tool. If she’s having a really emotional response and screaming and crying, we’ll take her there to cool off. She knows that she can come out when she’s done and ready to talk. There is absolutely no point in talking to a screaming toddler! 🙂

  2. I always feel a tiny bit torn on spanking, because I was spanked on occasion without any long-term damage, but I really want to try to avoid this type of discipline. I CAN’T, however, see how you could avoid time-outs. For little ones who just want to go, go, go, being forced to sit still for a moment to decompress and consider their actions seems like the perfect discipline to me. I’m with you: these are ABSOLUTELY “teachable moments.”

    – Evanthia

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Evanthia! I like how you put it – they need to sit still for a moment to decompress and consider their actions. It is so true. We’re not doing our kids any favors if we don’t force them to stop and THINK once in a while! 🙂

  3. I think time-outs could have the potential to be effective if your child is willing to stay in the “time-out” area. It’s difficult to have a child who apparently has a phobia of “sitting still”. I’ve found taking away privileges to be fairly effective ( I guess that’s the one thing tv is good for 🙂

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