Study finds most parents using 'timeouts' incorrectly

Brittany Tarwater

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- When the Tennessee Vols take a timeout in Neyland Stadium, it's a break; a chance to regroup and reset the game plan.

So, why is it any different with disciplining kids?

"There are effective ways to use timeout and not as effective ways," said Seema Singh-Perez, behavior facilitator at Alternative Counselling Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. "We get fired up, we get angry, we want to punish. But really what we want to do is change the behavior. It's a good technique to help change behavior."

A new study in the American Academy of Pediatrics said 85 percent of parents who use timeouts aren't using them properly.

"It's not about being cruel, it's about teaching boundaries and following through that this is the consequence of this behavior," she said.

Singh-Perez suggested most effective timeouts come down to three things: warnings, consistency and reflection.

Starting with warnings, she said not to give kids more than one warning before facing the consequence.

"If you say it several times, what they've learned is that maybe there will be a timeout, but there will probably be just quibbling back and forth and arguing," she said.

Then, stick to the promise.

"If you decide that five minutes turns into three, what you're teaching them is to not follow through, that you're not going to follow through, and they are not going to be expected to go by the rules," she continued.

Instead of a punishment, she suggested using the timeout as a chance for parents and kids to think about what happened and what could have been done better.

"It's not just to put the child someplace else to think about what they did wrong. It's also for me to cool down and it's for the child to think about what's going on, and then you come back together and you solve the problem," she said.

The study cited other mistakes such as letting the child talk during their timeout or play with toys.