Development Learning/Memory

Episode 28: Is “Time Out” Really Effective?

Everybody advocates the use of time out over forms of punishments like spankings, but how exactly do you administer time out in a way that is effective? Could we be doing it all wrong? Is time out even something we should be doing at all? Join me as I explore this topic.


Resources on Time Out

Quotes of Interest

From Positive Time Out (Nelson):

      • Where did we ever get the idea that we have to make children feel bad in order for them to act good?

From Smart Love (Pieper and Pieper):

      • We believe that discipline makes children miserable without offering them any genuine benefit, because punishing children whose behavior is out of control actually interferes with their ability to learn self governance. We advocate the use of loving regulation, a way for parents to guide their children away from missteps without adding to their unhappiness or interfering with their development of inner happiness.
      • The best way to respond to a child’s harmful or dangerous behavior is to stop it without imposing added unpleasantness.
      • Parents are frequently advised to tell their child that her behavior makes them angry. But children cannot distinguish between their parent’s anger at the behavior and their parent’s feelings about them. When children repeatedly experience their parents as being angry at them, they copy their parents and develop needs to feel angry at themselves.
      • Unfortunately, most people don’t recognize that many of the vulnerabilities and out of control behaviors that children engage in are both temporary and appropriate for their age (you can’t expect children to act like adults).

The Explosive Child:

These authors discuss children whom they refer to as “inflexible-explosive”: children who find it difficult to “go with the flow”. These children get “locked up” and don’t handle change easily. Also, typical disciplinary procedures such as time-out only lead to a deterioration of their condition and probably a “melt-down”. The authors encourage a more problem solving approach to working with such children. I encourage you to take a look at two web sites related to their work:

      • The authors have established a non-profit institute called “Think Kids” and I encourage you to visit this site.

Related Episodes

Be sure to listen to the Interview with Stuart Ablon called “Timeout Revisited”: dealing with challenging kids:

      • Part 1 of the interview on timeout revisited.
      • Part 2 of the interview on timeout revisited.


About Author


  1. Avatar


    September 5, 2007

    Are you familiar with the book Love and Logic? I have thoroughly enjoyed implementing the principles in this book- i.e. natural consequences and sets child up to think for himself while still making the parent the rule maker. This has worked wonders with my 4 boys, especially around ages 2-5. We "love" it…and each other.

  2. Avatar


    September 5, 2007

    I don’t have an article on the topic of time out, but I highly recommend the links above to resources from Jane Nelson, especially her Positive Time Out book.

  3. Avatar

    ali borines

    September 5, 2007

    I am writing a research paper regarding young children’s concept of time-out? Do you have an article about this? Is time-out really effective in inhibiting future occurence of the same aggressive behavior?

  4. Avatar


    September 5, 2007

    Anonymous: good questions. Check out a couple more episodes that I’ve done where I talk to some specialists who discuss how to work with “challenging children”. Here’s the links to them:

    and here’s part 2:

    I think you’ll find some good ideas there. I’m also hoping to interview the authors of one of my favorite books, “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk”. Highly recommended.

  5. Avatar


    September 5, 2007

    so what happens when youve already done the negative timeout and the spanking?? how do you reverse that so that the child can be disciplined but yet not embarrassed or spanked.?

  6. Avatar


    September 5, 2007

    interesting analogy!

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