Is time-out an effective form of discipline?

Gordon Neufeld, PhD Psychologist & Author, shares advice for parents on whether time-outs are an effective form of discipline for kids and deter bad behavior in the future
Are Time-Outs Effective Forms Of Discipline
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Is time-out an effective form of discipline?

Time outs are a huge issue in today´s parenting. It has become a panacea for many, many parents. And it is recommended by pediatricians and it was originally recommended as a replacement for spanking so that we would not harm our children. Unfortunately, we did not realize what children really needed and that the most wounding experience of all is facing separation. If we knew that and understood it, we would not be using this as punishment. In fact, any kind of separation based discipline. Because it wounds children tremendously. What it calls forth in children is very strong emotions of alarm. Now interesting enough when they are alarmed, they are moved to caution so it seems to us that this is a good thing. But in actual fact when we are evoking alarm in them, it is causing all kinds of anxiety problem. Now we see anxiety coming up in other ways because they need to feel safe with their parents. Another emotion it evokes is intense pursuit. A child will want to be good for, promise that they will never do it again. This also seems good but we don´t realize it is coming from a place of insecurity. And it´s the last place that we want it to come from in a child. It is making the child responsible for the contact and closeness. It is as if they feel the invitation to exist in their presence withdrawn when we send them to their room, when we withdraw, when we give the silent treatment. It is very, very wounding. But the other emotion that it generates is frustration and this gives rise to aggression problems. So in actual fact it is hugely impacting. It stirs children up. Whoever thought that they would send them to their room to calm them down. If our spouses sent us to our room for a time out, it is the most stirring kind of experience that we could have. And to put a cap on it, if you are close to somebody, it sets them up for separation. The brain can actually reverse the attachment instincts. We call it defensive detachment. And the child begins to resist contact and closeness. Go away. I do not like you. Don´t touch me. And that injures the relationship tremendously. So the bottom line is no, timeouts are not. We should not even consider any form of separation based discipline with children. What we need to do is let them know that the relationship is bigger than the problem, not that the relationship is at stake.

Gordon Neufeld, PhD Psychologist & Author, shares advice for parents on whether time-outs are an effective form of discipline for kids and deter bad behavior in the future


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Gordon Neufeld, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author, Hold On to Your Kids and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training others, including educators and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a worldwide organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather of three.

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