Time’s Up for Time Outs

Why I believe “time outs” are negative, continued:
  • Time outs teach our children that “sorry” is a “get out of jail free card” and can be used without having the emotional development to feel sincere regret.
  • And lastly, young children have not developed emotional regulation. Expecting them to have emotional control without the brain development to manage emotional responses is like asking someone to fly without wings. Forcing them to reflect without the brain maturity to do so can have a negative impact on the child/parent relationship and cause emotional separation.

What we really tell our children when we send them to a time out is that we only want to be with them when they behave in a way we find suitable, leaving little room for error.

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I need it the most.”

I believe that this is quite unfair. We all wake up to an occasional bad day and although we don’t behave like a two year old (because we have emotional maturity on our side), we might not manage to be our best selves all day and that’s OK.

If I was held to the behavioural standard that some children are I would never leave the the bottom step of my stairs.

When your child is in the middle of an emotional storm and struggling behaviourally, be her calm not her thunder.


Chapman, Michael and Zahn-Wexler, Carolyn. “Young Children’s Compliance and Noncompliance to Parental Discipline in a Natural Setting.” International Journal of Behavioral Development 5 (982): p. 90.

Hoffman, Martin. (1970) “Moral Development.” In Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology, 3rd ed., volume 2, edited by Paul H. Mussen. New York: Wiley.

Sofie Thomson is a writer, breastfeeding advocate and (breastfeeding) peer supporter from Sweden, now living in the Scottish Highlands with her husband and children. Since completing her degree in Child and Youth Studies, she has focused on encouraging parents to follow biological norms and trust their natural parenting instincts via her blog – The Gentle Mum. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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