Understanding the purpose of "timeout"

Child Psychiatrist & Author Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents to help them understand the purpose of what a "timeout" is and how it should be used to discipline your child
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Understanding the purpose of "timeout"

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In the book I wrote with Dr Brazelton, called "Discipline The Brazelton Way," we offer the pros and cons of different discipline techniques. One of the ones that people talk about the most is "Timeouts." And recently "timeouts" have been getting a bad rap. People say, "Oh! they don't work, why bother." But I think it is because we've begun to misunderstand what a "Timeout" is and how to use it. And I don't think "timeouts" work if they are misused as a punishment. If a child misbehaves, then you say "That's it. You are on timeout. " You've completely undone what timeouts help with. Timeouts are not punishment. They are a time to settle down and calm down and get yourself back under control. I know one child care center where there were no "timeouts." But there is the "Cozy Couch". And when you need to calm down and settle your self down, you go sit on the "cozy couch." Which is not off in a corner. Its where you can see everybody. You are not put aside. And that is where you learn self control so that you can then look at how you can do better the next time. So timeouts make sense and they do work if you don't use them as punishment. But as a time to learn self control.

Child Psychiatrist & Author Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents to help them understand the purpose of what a "timeout" is and how it should be used to discipline your child

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Joshua Sparrow, MD

Child Psychiatrist & Author brazeltontouchpoints.org

A child psychiatrist, Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation, prompted his interest in community-based prevention and health promotion. At the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, his work focuses on cultural adaptations of family support programs, organizational professional development, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities, and has included collaborative consultation with the Harlem Children's Zone and American Indian Early Head Start Programs, among many others. He has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on related topics and has consulted on media programming for children and parents, including PBS’s Frontlines and Discovery Kids. Co-author with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of 8 books and the weekly New York Times Syndicated column, “Families Today,” Dr. Sparrow has also served as a contributing editor to Scholastic Services’ Parent and Child magazine. In 2006, he revised with Dr. Brazelton Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition and in 2010, co-edited Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. B. Brazelton, a textbook on the ongoing generativeness of Brazelton’s seminal research in a wide range of fields. Dr. Sparrow has authored numerous other scholarly works, teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is frequently called upon for his expertise by national and international media. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Sparrow worked for several years as a preschool teacher and journalist in New York City.

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