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Time out is acceptable

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There’s been some controversy about time out as a punishment but new research says that it does more good than harm.

The University of Sydney has found that the correct use of ‘time-out’ as a form of discipline does not harm a child’s mental health, but rather increases well-being and happiness. 

The research conducted at the Child Behaviour Research Clinic counters claims in some quarters, including some government advice, that time-out for kids can be dangerous. The lead researcher, Prof Mark Dadds, said parents have nothing to fear from using the technique.

“In 30 years, we’ve treated thousands of kids with disruptive behaviour,” said Dadds, of the Child Behaviour Research Clinic based at the University’s Brain and Mind Centre. “When we use time-out as part of a positive parenting program, kids are much happier and much more regulated.”

Published in American Psychologist, the study scrutinised time-out from a mental health perspective. The study focused on the use of time-out with children two to eight years of age. It also examined 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 found, when implemented correctly, time-out is an effective and positive discipline strategy with potential to enhance all aspects of the child’s development and mental health. The appropriate use of time-out is also compatible with the needs of children with a history of exposure to trauma, the paper found.

  

In Australia, many parents who have adopted or fostered a child who has experienced trauma are being discouraged from using time-out by Departments of Family and Community Services and other groups responsible for the child’s welfare.

 

“We are seeing children who’ve had awful life experiences – their behaviour is out of control with screaming, biting or hitting – and their parents are being told not to use time-out. The kids get worse,” said Dadds. “We need to disabuse parents and policy makers of the belief that time-out is harmful. Kids get a lot happier when it is used correctly.”


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