RSS Feeds

Parenting: Do time-outs help or hurt?

Monday - 5/5/2014, 7:04am  ET

Do time-outs work? The experts share their opinions. (Thinkstock)

Are time-outs effective parenting?

WTOP's Randi Martin reports


WASHINGTON -- What's the best way to deal with a misbehaving or out-of-control child? It's an issue with which plenty of parents struggle. A "time-out" is a common consequence for disobedient little ones, but is it effective?

The answer isn't clear.

Time-out has been researched for more than 30 years. And, just as different parents have different approaches, so do the experts.

"A time-out is a great way to remove the child from the situation and give them a chance to cool off," says Janet Ozzard, executive editor of the parenting website

She says a time-out should always be implemented compassionately and with patience, and never as a punishment -- something that can be difficult in the heat of the moment.

Alan E. Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, tells the American Psychological Association that time-outs work best when they are brief and immediate. More important than a time-out, he says, is time-in: the time parents spend modeling and praising appropriate behavior.

But Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist and author of "Parenting Without Power Struggles," says a time-out isn't the best approach.

"Sending an out-of-control child, who's lost his center, to his room to ‘think about what they've done,' just doesn't happen that way," she says. "This child will not be sitting there reflecting on their poor behavior. Instead [they] will be hating you, or scared, or angry."

Stiffelman says parents should help their children regain composure with a calming and caring influence, instead of sending them to time-out.

She also says the best thing to do when a child misbehaves is to get to the root of the problem.

"Is the child not getting enough attention? Is a child stressed because of learning challenges? These are more interesting ways of looking at the problem than simply trying to keep a child in their room every time they act out."

Stiffelman says other common triggers of acting up include a new baby, a separation or divorce, stress in the household and a death in the family.

Do you use time-outs in your house? And do you think they are an effective parenting tool? Let us know in the comments section of this story, on Twitter or on the WTOP Facebook page. Until then, a local parent shares her take on discipline.

To spank or not to spank, that is the question
By Andrea Cambron

This past weekend, I received a compliment I've been waiting to hear for years. No, it wasn't on my shoes, clothes or "getting my body back" after baby.

As I was leaving a dinner party, filled with adults and kids, a lady walked up to me and said, "You have the most well behaved kids! They are so polite and have great manners; you're doing such a good job with them."

Similar to Lupita Nyong'o at the Academy Awards, I almost broke down and cried my way through an acceptance speech.

"I'd like to thank..."

But instead, with a sheepish grin, I mumbled together something like, "Oh thanks!"

I would love to say that I did this all without, as Gwyneth would say, "forcefully disciplining" my children. I would love to be a part of the chorus of that believes spanking children is not the way to go and the only thing spanking does is create more aggressive, fearful children. But since I've used it on my own children, I won't.

Look, I don't believe that spanking should be the main form of punishment for a child. It shouldn't even be a go-to. What I will say is that I believe there is a right and a wrong way to discipline your children, no matter if you spank them or not.

When I was growing up, both of my parents spanked me. There was a difference, however, in the way that my mother and father carried out that punishment. Now, before I start ratting out both of my parents, I have love and respect for both of them. As an educated adult, I understand their belief that spanking would curb certain behaviors. With that said, my father was a military man. As the main enforcer of punishment, he was often reactionary, with the thought that any misbehavior would self-correct after a good swat.

My mother, on the other hand, took a different approach. She would rarely spank, but when she did, she would often stop the wrongdoing immediately and delay the punishment -- and I always wondered why. I now know the delay was so she could have time to calm down. Spankings with her usually occurred at night, after a long explanation for the reason, so that I fully understood its purpose.

It's not necessarily spankings, or timeouts, or whatever mode of discipline is new right now. What children really need is to be talked to, starting at an early age, even if they don't understand everything right away. Understanding why you are being punished goes a lot further than passing out the punishment.

I have since tried to model my own life with my children, like my mother did with me and my siblings. I'm not going to give future predictions, but judging by the world audience, so far it has worked.

Editor's Note: Andrea Cambron tackles issues of feminism, race and motherhood on her two blogs, and When she's not doing that, she's producing for Mark Thompson on "Make it Plain," SiriusXM Progress, Ch. 127. Sometimes you can even find her at a D.C. park with her husband and two children. In the Twitterverse she's @andreacambron and @tsahwm.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.