Most parents and caregivers know they shouldn’t hit kids. They’re also aware that emotional punishments—shaming, yelling, ridiculing—have unhappy unintended consequences. But the same adults often believe it’s okay to isolate kids when the adult doesn’t like the way the child is behaving.

Adults Need Timeouts (for Themselves)

We all get overwhelmed sometimes. That’s when we’re most likely to behave badly, actout, or say things we shouldn’t. That’s as true for adults as it is for kids. But there’s one big difference: Adult brains have the capacity to process emotions and find the calm insight and perspective that are necessary to wise action. (Of course, not all adults have developed those abilities.)

Kids’ brains aren’t sufficiently mature to do this; the neurological capacity for insight starts developing with puberty and isn’t fully mature until early adulthood.

So, give yourself a timeout if you notice you’re losing it. Count to ten, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, repeat an affirmation you’ve memorized, attune to how much you love the child you think is doing something bad. Spending time with kids can be exhausting and overwhelming, but acting out of that exhaustion with irritability is not likely to go well for you, or for the child who’s making you crazy.

Why Adults Like Timeouts for Kids

  1. Efficacy. Timeouts seem to work. Send a child to a timeout, and the bad behavior stops.
  2. Nonviolence. Timeouts get the child’s attention without resorting to spanking, yelling, etc.
  3. Logic. Time away from people seems to be a logical consequence of antisocial behavior.
  4. Breathing space. Timeouts give everyone a chance to calm down.
  5. Hope of remorse. Adults think kids will use the timeout to realize the errors of their ways, maybe even vowing to be good.

So, What’s Wrong with Timeouts?

– Dona Matthews

Read More: Timeouts: Good for Adults, but Not for Kids

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