Seriously? ‘Time-Outs’ are Hurting your Child? Are they?

Oh, just come on.

I’m so tired of reading this sort of thing – Then don’t read it! you say, to which I say You obviously don’t know me! –  this sort of idea that having even minimal [age-appropriate, duh] expectations for your child and reinforcing them [in an age-appropriate way, duh] is being a meany mean pants parent and also not to mention DOING PERMANENT DAMAGE TO YOUR CHILD HOLY FUCKING SHIT. You know?

Time-outs seem very 90s-parenting, don’t they? Am I the only one who feels that? I don’t care about time-outs. I’m not at the point in my parenting where I would use one, and I’m not sure if I would or not. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have strong thoughts on the matter. But, when done in a loving, appropriate way, I really don’t think it’s doing damage to a child unless you define “damage” as “ugh, mom, you suuuuuck.”

Someone on Mommyish (“the place where the commenters are smarter than the writers”) said, “The scan of someone hugging a puppy looks the same as the scan of someone who just snorted coke.”

I like that. Let’s stay with that.

We already feel deficient as parents because we made some choice instead of some other choice and we are led to believe that every decision from the point of conception is fraught. I’m all for research and knowledge and information – I mean, I obviously can’t stop consuming it – but invoking brain imaging to prove that time-outs are causing some kind of lasting psychological effect is just irresponsible.

Image credit: Ye Rin Mok

2 thoughts on “time. out.

  1. Okay, how about “time outs don’t do any good.” That is certainly true. You come home, you’ve had a bad day, and you are ranting about how there is no wine. Your spouse says, nicely: “I need you to go to your room until you can talk in a nice voice.” Or, more commonly, yells “Get to your room! Don’t come out until you can be nice!”

    With a child, you can have internalized shame or active defiance, which leads to holding the child on a chair, in their room….pretty, huh?

    Read How to Talk so Kids Will Listen (based on Adler and Driekurs, if you want some alternatives. “Time out” is punishment lite, and we all know that being punished makes us sneaky or actively defiant.


    • Often what bothers me, and what I tend to write about with respect to parenting belief trends, is the degree rather than the idea. You know? This post isn’t really about time-outs themselves. It’s about telling parents they are doing neurological damage when they give a time-out. That is irresponsible and it’s also kind of bullshit.

      I’ve never given a time out. I’ve actually never intentionally punished my child in any way. This is mostly because he’s only 18 months old, but also because I believe it to be an ineffective way of changing behavior. I say that to point out that whether or not I agree with giving time-outs is mostly irrelevant to my post.

      Does that make sense? I think this applies to most of the parenting posts I make here. Often, my own parenting beliefs, which actually tend to be pretty bleeding hearty, don’t play that much of a role in my annoyance over what (and how) we are told in the current parenting environment. It often seems to be fear- and guilt-based, exaggerated, and misunderstood.


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