The Downsides of 'Time Outs' for Children

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Time outs" and positive reinforcement have seemed like reasonable ways to discourage or encourage bad behavior in kids for decades. But an advocate for an approach called "unconditional parenting" says these methods are actually bad for children later in life. We speak to author Alfie Kohn, author of the book, "Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason," who practices this philosophy with his own kids. We also talk to pediatrician and mother Perri Klass.

Read Alfie Kohn's article in The New York Times: "When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’"

"Speaking as a pediatrician, when we talk about using time-out, we're usually not talking about it as a way to encourage parents to be more severe; we're usually talking about it as a way to get through difficult family moments without screaming, yelling, hitting."
—Dr. Perri Klass on using time-outs as an alternative to harsher discipline methods


Dr. Perri Klass and Alfie Kohn


Jen Poyant

Comments [5]

Laura Markham

Timeouts are better than hitting/yelling, but get in the way of raising considerate, responsible, high-achieving kids.

Why? Timeouts create a power struggle that undermines your relationship with your child, which is what makes him want to behave. When you send an upset child away to calm down, you teach her she's alone with her most difficult feelings, rather than coaching her in managing them. You break your child's trust by triggering his abandonment fears (why do you think kids behave when threatened with timeout?) You have to harden your heart to his distress, and your empathy for him is what helps you see the need under the misbehavior.

If you can't control your own upset enough to coach your child through his, do a timeout. Nobody's perfect. But your kid will be healthier if you can learn how to set limits in an empathic way that will help your child grow from the experience. Thanks Mr. Kohn, for shaking up our assumptions.

Sep. 23 2009 04:44 PM

The perfect example I saw of Mr.Kohn's thesis, without having read it: In Paris this kid on a table next to us threw his dad's cellphone on the floor, half testing half playing. His father gave him an earfull, showed his anger and displeasure, made him pick up the phone and parts, and when all was calm again, gave him a kiss and a hug, saying he loved him. Needless to say, french kids are one of the most well-behaved kids I have ever seen in public. No nagging, no screaming etc.

Sep. 21 2009 09:04 AM

Remarkable how many people respond to a suggestion that kids be treated with respect and care by assuming this means permissiveness and will spoil the child. More logical to think that the strict discipline that's still accepted by so many explains the troubles we see all around us.

Sep. 21 2009 07:20 AM

This guy is no more knowledgeable than the after Thanksgiving dinner conversation. And I think he would be leaving 1/2 hour after the Turkey was off the table. He must come from the Vance Packard (Status Seekers) school of opinionated journalism and social science masked as some kind of expert based on research he only half understands.

Did he do the research? Usually social research is very narrow and not predictive of what the gent was postulating with such conviction.

Sep. 21 2009 07:18 AM

This guy is a quack. His recommendations seem like the perfect way to raise a self centered spoiled brat. No thanks.

Sep. 21 2009 06:58 AM

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