Why We Don’t Do Time Outs

Posted by Melissa Robertson-Bye on

I posted on our Instagram last week that we were looking for consequences for our daughter who keeps taking our belongings and either using them, breaking them or hiding them. It is starting to become an issue. We have also had some problems with her keeping her room and playroom clean. I have cleaned it several times over the pandemic and it’s just not staying clean. Her consequence for that is that I will throw her toys out (okay I decided this when I was really mad). Not the best consequence.

When i said in my post that we don’t do time outs I got so many messages asking me why not. I thought it would make a great blog post.

My education background is in Early Childhood Education. I have a diploma and a degree and then a masters in Education. I have worked in Child Care for almost 20 years. We never used time-outs in the centres I worked in. We used guiding behaviour, positive reinforcements, and conversations.

When I was pregnant and trying to figure out parenting styles I looked into time outs. Growing up we had time outs. My mom used to also send me to the wall (with my nose against it), it was the worst punishment. I knew there had to be something better.

In my research I came across a lot of information about the negative impact and how useless timeouts are. One thing that was constantly mentioned was that time-outs do not directly relate to the child’s behaviour. If they have not cleaned their room sitting alone on a chair doesn’t relate to the behaviour. There are also no learning opportunities. A child sits on a chair for a designated time by the parent and then they are told not to do it again and off they go. Being able to have a conversation about what happened and what can change is a more effective way of disciplining.

Time-Outs can fuel a power struggle which usually ends in children upset and parent angry. We try to avoid power struggles as much as possible by offering choices or not worrying about the small things. Also with time outs it removes the child from the situation instead of teaching them to work through those feelings and talk about it. 

Now we do take breaks, these are different from time outs as it allows us both to calm down and stops the yelling, crying or screaming. When Lilly’s feelings are escalating to the point where she can no longer hear us talking to her we guide her to her room to calm down. She decides on the length of time. Sometimes it is a minute where other times it is 10 to 15 minutes. When we first started doing this she was 2. For the first two years of us doing this we would sit or stand outside of her room where she could see us. This way if she needed something we were accessible. Now she goes on her own when we ask her and she doesn’t want to see us.

Currently we use 5 different methods. We pick based on what the situation is. These methods might not work for you. You need to look at your child’s age and their developmental stage.

  1. Choices - For example, I need her to get clean. “Lilly do you want a bath or a shower tonight?”
  2. Have them Explain the Rules - We were getting ready to go to the cabin again and I asked Lilly. Do you remember the rules when we are at Papa’s? She got all the rules and followed them all while we were away.
  3. Earn a Privilege - We have been doing this one with screen time lately. We will give Lilly small tasks to complete for a set time of screen time.
  4. Hugs - Sometimes we just need a hug. I find it can help her mood. And when she’s really worked up I find that she will just melt into us.
  5. Conversations- Sometimes we need to just talk about what happened. We also talk about what to do next time and things that we can change.

These ideas are great for older children. But remember something that works for a 2 year old won’t work for a 10 year old and vice versa.