Discipline methods evolve with new generations, yet stay the same

Time-out is an effective discipline strategy for children. Time-out as a form of discipline evolved from the “You’re grounded” philosophy of the ’70s and ’80s and the “Go to your room” method of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. In all these strategies of discipline the premise is the same, temporary removal of the child from the playmates, situation or behavior which is out of control. Time-out is a throwback to earlier times, when a misbehaving child was told to “Go, sit in the corner.”

Time-out is a phrase children understand from an early age, and is most effective with the very young child. Time-out, like all methods of discipline, must be tempered with common sense. The amount of time out should be regulated to the age of the child. Very young children have a short attention span, so a few minutes and a brief explanation of the desired behavior change should be sufficient.

As the child grows older, and more adept at testing limits, time-out may not be as effective. With older children it is better to vary the discipline strategies, always being sure to tailor the punishment to the infraction. Using a combination of “time out, “go to your room” and “you’re grounded” with older children can be efficient strategy. Denying access to favored activities, like television viewing or computer games, is also a good method of discipline. Children learn quickly that breaking the family rules will result in some form of punishment, but the discipline strategy must vary in order to continue being effective.

When a couple makes the decision to raise a family together, as much thought should go into what form of discipline they will use as discussion of all the other facets of parenting.

The following three components, combined, will create effective discipline strategies:


The parents need to begin by communicating with each other, and coming to agreement about what is considered proper behavior in their family and what forms of discipline are an option. There must be ongoing communication and adaptation as the child grows. The rules of the family must be communicated to the child. The child should always know what is acceptable behavior and what is considered reason for discipline.


The parents must always follow through with the discipline doled out when an infraction occurs. If the child knows he can talk the parents into shortening the length of time-out, or grounding, he will not be motivated to keep the rules when a conflict arises between a desired activity and the family rules.

Common sense

Keep the punishment in proportion to the infraction. If a child is teasing his sibling, time-out in his room for awhile is appropriate. No television for a month is over the top. If a child comes home late, after the agreed upon time, grounding him for the next occasion is appropriate; grounding him for a month is over the top.

Never punish a child while you are angry. Count to ten, take a deep breath, send the culprit to his/her room to think about the errant behavior, while you think about what you should use as a form of discipline. Flying off the handle in anger is not a strategy. Discipline doled out in spur of the moment anger is an exercise in venting, rather than a rational attempt to modify undesirable behavior.

Time-out, per se, did not exist as a form of discipline years ago, but it is a good alternative to allow a cooling off period; an opportunity for examination of conscience, on the part of the child and the angry parent.

Combined with communication, consistency, common sense and a loving attitude and intent, time-out can be a valuable discipline tool.