Why Time-outs Don’t Work…

I attended a conference yesterday on Developmentally Appropriate Behavior Guidance and the speaker had an interesting take on time-outs that I would like to share with you.

Some background information:

-The brain is not fully formed at birth. In fact, research is showing that it may not be fully formed until your 20’s or even 30’s.

-A young child’s experiences change the structure of the brain.

-Temperament is biological meaning you are born with it.

-Sixty-five percent of people have a dominant temperament. Forty percent of people are easy/flexible, fifteen percent are slow to warm up/cautious, and ten percent of people are active/feisty. The rest of us are a mix in some way.

I know we’ve all come across the ten percent of children that are active/feisty (some days I would bet that I knew all ten percent) and if you look honestly at yourself you just might recognize that you’re one of them! These are the children with BIG emotions. When they do something they do it will all they have. As young children when someone takes something from them they don’t just gently take it back, they rip it out of their hands. They don’t just give a little push when someone makes them mad, they make sure that someone ends up on the floor. Many of us resort to the good ole time-out when we see something like this. They need to sit and calm down right? Wrong! When this child is having a BIG emotion they can’t hear what you’re saying and sitting is not actually helping them. Their body is filled with chemicals and they actually need to be active to get it out of their body. Giving the child an alternative option such as stomping their feet until they are done being angry will work much better then asking them to sit and calm down. The other issue with asking them to sit is that, well, they don’t, and then you are telling them that they’re not listening because they are not sitting and then they forget all about what happened to get them to this section of the wall in the first place. Since we learned above that temperament is biological we need to make sure we are giving children coping skills for these BIG emotions that they are wired to have. Since we know that the brain is still developing in children we also need to give them names for the feelings that they are having so that they can identify them and eventually learn to control them. Just like when an adult goes for a run to relieve stress, a child needs to be active when they are trying to release anger. And that my friends is why time-outs don’t work.


4 thoughts on “Why Time-outs Don’t Work…

  1. Nicole was a very insightful Blog. I have never heard this information before but it sounds so true. Not all kids are the same and people should not try to fit them into one mold. I like the idea of giving an alternative release for children who are experiencing what you call “BIG” emotions. After reading this it makes perfect sense that a child could release tension much the same was as an adult, with physically working out.


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