How timeouts can be effective

How timeouts can be effective

Some parents use timeouts to discipline a child for misbehavior. The goal is to stop unwanted behavior using 1-2 minute periods of zero social interactions. If timeouts are done right, they are effective to limit unwanted behavior.

However, since they are useless in encouraging the desired behaviors, parents who take a more holistic approach to training their children don’t often believe in them.

Why timeouts works
Decades of research have shown that well-intended attention can reinforce bad behavior. So, the logic behind the timeout technique is to create a brief break in all forms of attention — demands, explanations, threats, rewards, and others. By sending the child to sit alone from some time, you deny them the attention they were craving with their bad behavior.

The limitations of timeouts
However, while a timeout can stop the behavior at that moment, it may not prevent the child from engaging in the behavior in the future, as it doesn’t teach the child the behavior we want to see. Timeouts are, therefore, only able to help limit a problematic behavior, but they are ineffective in encouraging good behavior. Fortunately, there are ways you can make the timeout more effective.

How to make timeouts effective
For timeouts to be effective, do the following:

Timeout for young children
Children — especially those under 3 years old — do not yet have the ability to reflect on their own actions. This means that the goal of taking a break is not self-reflection but to provide a quiet place where children can move from a state of high agitation and upset to a sense of calm.

Alternatively, just ignore bad behavior
If a child is out of control but not harming anyone, it can be effective to just ignore the behavior for some time and then try to change the situation by moving the child’s attention to something else. Say a child is having a tantrum because you took away the sweets they were eating, acknowledge the anger, show empathy, and then, move on and take the child outside for a walk.

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