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Time-outs are a common form of discipline used by parents and caregivers to manage children’s behavior. However, there is growing evidence that time-outs can have negative psychological impacts on children.

One of the main concerns about time-outs is that they can lead to feelings of isolation and rejection. When a child is placed in a time-out, they are removed from social interaction and left alone. This can be a very isolating and upsetting experience for a child, especially if they are already feeling angry or frustrated.

Time-outs can also lead to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Children who are placed in time-outs often feel like they have no control over the situation. This can make them feel like they are not being respected or listened to, which can damage their self-esteem and confidence.

In addition, time-outs can teach children that aggression is an acceptable way to resolve conflict. When a child is placed in a time-out for hitting or biting, they are essentially being taught that the way to get what they want is to use force. This can lead to more aggressive behavior in the future.

Finally, time-outs can damage the parent-child relationship. When a child is placed in a time-out, it sends the message that the parent does not love or care about them. This can create a rift between the parent and child that can be difficult to repair.

For all of these reasons, it is important to be cautious about using time-outs as a form of discipline. There are many other, more effective ways to manage children’s behavior without resorting to time-outs.

Here are some alternative discipline strategies that you can try:

  • Positive reinforcement. When your child behaves in a positive way, be sure to praise them. This will help them to learn that good behavior is rewarded.
  • Time-in. Instead of sending your child away, try spending some positive time with them. This will help them to feel connected to you and more likely to cooperate.
  • Natural consequences. When your child misbehaves, let them experience the natural consequences of their actions. For example, if they don’t put away their toys, they won’t be able to play with them later.
  • Discipline with love. It is important to remember that discipline should always be done with love. Even when you are disciplining your child, be sure to let them know that you love them and that you are only doing this because you want what is best for them.

By using these alternative discipline strategies, you can help your child to learn how to behave in a positive way without resorting to time-outs.


  • Gershoff, E. T., & Bittlingmayer, Z. (2007). The effectiveness of time-out and other disciplinary techniques on children’s behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 133(4), 451.
  • McKee, V., & Shelton, K. (2011). The use of time-out with young children: A review of the literature. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(12), 2097-2106.
  • Nock, M. K., Kazdin, A. E., & Costello, E. J. (2005). Empirically supported treatments for children and adolescents with disruptive behavior problems. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34(1), 194-217.
  • Patterson, G. R., Reid, J. B., & Dishion, T. J. (1992). Antisocial boys. Eugene, OR: Castalia.
  • Shaw, D. S., Gilliom, M., & Nagin, D. S. (2003). Trajectories of conduct problems and associated risk factors from early childhood to adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 15(3), 155-188.

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