Unruly kids: is it time to embrace the ‘time out’?

Time out is often used to calm children down. It is a controversial method, with both supporters and opponents. This article includes a description of what the ‘time out’ method entails and the advantages and disadvantages that go along with it.

Taking time out

Parents will be perfectly aware of what it means to have to deal with young kids having a tantrum. Do you sometimes have the feeling that you want to stick your child behind the wallpaper? Are they being aggressive, trying to destroy things, looking for a fight or just nagging and whiny and not keeping to agreements? Many coaches would advise to use the ‘time out’ method in any of these cases. This means choosing a designated place where they are sent for a certain period of time to ‘cool off’ for a while. For instance, putting the child in the corridor to calm down or sometimes placing them outside in the garden for a short time. After a while, if the child is calm, then they are allowed to return. However, if they continue with their tantrum, they stay where they are put for another specified period.

Drawbacks: it is a method based on fear

Now, there are some drawbacks to a time out. The child does not receive any positive attention. Conditions are set for the child’s behaviour, which is often not good for their self-esteem.

You are not motivating the child intrinsically, but you are creating a sense of fear. It is better to help children to see and understand more clearly what is causing their behaviour.

Better to aim for a motivational approach?

So, it is good to recognise the situation and saying something like this to your child: ‘I see you are mad, what is causing you to act like that?’

You can support your child by discussing with them in a peaceful moment the different methods that can be followed next time they feel an angry episode popping up again. Make sure you don’t have this conversation when they in the middle of a tantrum – wait until everything is back to normal again.

Try to find out what your child needs and respond to them, explaining clearly what will happen next time they act in an unacceptable manner. It is important to make use of agreements and be consistent in this. So do not let the child play games until 21.00 one day and restrict it to 18.00 the day after.

Some children can regulate their emotions themselves. You can easily let them relax in their room. Other children need to be helped by talking to them and putting an arm around them. It is always good to let children talk about their emotions and often the help of an external party such as a coach is useful if you cannot figure it out yourself.

What are your approaches to a time out? Please comment and share your experience.

Have a nice day,



It is always good to let children talk about their emotions


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