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A time-out is still a good method to discipline children – it might even improve their mental health

Posted April 2, 2019

You probably still remember being a child and getting in trouble. One of the most common punishments for misbehaving was always a good old time-out.  Nowadays we understand more about child‘s psychology and proper parenting, so is a time-out still a good method to discipline a child? Or is it too harsh and harmful? Scientists from the University of Sydney investigated this question.

A time-out is still a good method to discipline children – it doesn’t harm their mental health. Image credit: CustomKlicks via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Nowadays we take child’s mental health much more seriously, because there are more harmful factors threatening it. That is why law makers are beginning to scrutinize a time-out as potentially harmful. It’s been used forever and parents are still convinced that it works as intended. But no one wants to cause any harm to the child. Researchers studied the effects of time-out on children two to eight years of age. They paid a separate focus on children who had been exposed to traumatic events such as abuse, neglect or loss of parents. Researchers found that not only time-out was not harmful to child’s mental health, but it was also very effective.

Scientists say that a correctly implanted time-out is an effective and positive discipline strategy. Furthermore, it is a compatible method even with children who had been exposed to traumatic events. These children in particular are often exhibiting harmful behaviours, such as screaming, biting or hitting. However, people who take care of them are often advised not use time-out as it may be more harmful than beneficial. Meanwhile scientists say that these recommendations are not great, because kids get a lot happier when a time-out is used correctly. And it is a proven method – it’s been around since 1970’s, it is a second most commonly used discipline strategy (after an explanation) and it is researched the most. It is safe and effective to use.

The reasons why parents are recommended not to use a time-out are not based with any strong arguments. Professor Mark Dadds, lead researcher of the study, said: “Our paper shows that time-out is a positive influence for children including those who have been traumatised. There is a massive evidence base showing it is helpful for parents and children”. Scientists even compare this myth to the false idea that immunisation causes autism. As time-out is a good method to discipline children, vaccines do not cause autism – don’t believe in myths.

You should be sensitive about your child’s mental health. And you should certainly pay attention to it. But some methods, such as a time-out, are helpful and not harmful at all. It gives time for the child to think about his actions and consequences. And thinking is what children need to do.


Source: University of Sydney

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