We've all had one of those moments where our kids badly misbehave, and because they are so young, we're kinda just left there wondering what type of a consequence will teach them a lesson and not screw them up for life. Sound familiar? With so much contradicting research, it can be hard to narrow things down to what is the "right" way to handle these situations. Throw in the fact that every child is uniquely different, and we're just as clueless as we've ever been about anything.
Well, a new study just might provide some clarity for all of us confused parents.
Professor Mark Dadds of the University of Sydney, Australia, recently led a study on this subject to help give us all some perspective. He looked at the nature of using timeouts as a way to correct poor behavior in children, to see if it was actually an effective method.
So first things first, a timeout is essentially removing the child from the situation, giving them time to not only calm down but try to reflect on their behavior. It's no fun, and something we hope helps them learn their lesson, so they do not want to go back. A parent can dream, right?
The study looked at timeouts from not just a behavioral standpoint, but "from a mental health perspective, an important yet neglected area," according to the study. They looked at children in the two to eight-year-old age range, while focusing on "the method among children who had been exposed to traumatic events, such as neglect or abuse, and compared impacts on children who had been removed from their parents."
The study concluded that kids who experienced trauma ended up being happier when timeouts are done correctly. Study lead, Dadds says that "We are seeing children who’ve had awful life experiences — their behavior is out of control with screaming, biting or hitting — and their parents are being told not to use time-out. The kids get worse. We need to disabuse parents and policymakers of the belief that time-out is harmful."
So moral of the story is that when used correctly, time outs can be a beneficial thing.