Make Time Outs Work with A “Time In”

Many parents will put a child in time out so he can think about his misbehavior. In actuality, the child may instead grow angry and resentful.  A time out will not decrease the number of times your child does the unwanted behavior. When a parent issues punishment, the parent is not attending to compliance, but rather defiance. Director of Yale Parenting Center Dr. Alan Kazdin, said “…you could slap a child, scream at a child, reprimand a child. It stops the behavior instantaneously and that tells the parent that the punishment is working. This is called negative reinforcement.  But the overall rate (how many times that behavior occurs over the next few weeks) hasn’t changed at all. And if you up the ante with harder hits, longer shouts, more privileges taken away, the research is very clear:  It doesn’t change the

Time outs came about in the 1970’s as an alternative to spanking. But, the technique has become over-codified and over-used through the years.  A time out is simply meant as time away; an emotional break for both the child and parent.  Some parents choose to use a chair, a corner or a pre-determined length of time. All that is needed is a pause. The sooner the child can get back in charge of his emotions, the better.

The parent has to be prepared to reward the compliant behavior, and ignore the unwanted behavior. (According to Dr. Kazdin, most children are compliant 80 percent of the time.) Time outs are most effective if they are balanced with time in: time spent one-on- one with your child. The goal is to make a time out become a brief withdrawal of the parent’s time and attention, something that the child desires the most and will be excruciating to miss.

The most effective time outs only need to last a minute, or a few minutes. Time ins however are are more ongoing and ultimately teach your child that heated emotions will pass, and step away from whatever got her emotions into upheaval, and problems can be talked out with people we trust.


  • Commit to spending more one-on- one time with your child
  • Remind your child you love her
  • Be consistent with discipline and quick, but choose your battles
  • Praise your child when he or she is behaving
  • Keep time outs rare

Dr. Edward Christopherson, pediatrics professor and Ph.D. of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, M.O., says that a time out is the single best documented technique for reducing unwanted behavior but the symbolic abandonment during a time out sends a child the message they are alone with their feelings; a scary predicament for a child to be in.

“It’s nothing to do with justice, repentance, or authority, but follows simple logic: Attention feeds a behavior, and a time out is nothing more than a brief break from attention in any form—demands, threats, explanations, rewards, hugs… everything.” Kazdin says.

Time ins help to create safety and bonding with you and your child and give him the opportunity to process the feelings that cause him to act out.

References: “Why time out is out” to-guide- children-without- discpiline your-time- outs-to- time-ins- guest-

post-from- dr-laura- markham

Add tags: time in, time out, Alan Kazdin, Edward Christopherson, effective discipline methods