Sunnybrook Montessori School

Montessori preschool & kindergarten in New Hampshire's North Country

Time Out is Out

As teachers and parents, a major aspect of our work is to help children understand right from wrong, make healthy decisions, learn from mistakes, understand and appropriately manage emotions, and keep everyone safe.

Many years ago, physical punishment was the go to consequence for “misbehaving.”  When research began to show the extremely detrimental consequences of physical punishment, “time out” became the norm, but did you know that it is against NH state early care licensing standards to use “time out” in a child care setting?

If you google “time out as discipline,” you will find a variety of articles discussing the use of time out.  The article “What’s Wrong With Time-Outs” lists many significant issues with time out, and provides links to research demonstrating its’ ill-effects.

Concerns about time out include:

1. Time Out is a behavior modification technique that is used in the absence of actual teaching.  A child who seems to “need” a Time Out more likely needs some instruction, guidance, role playing, re-direction, or attention.  Timeouts, like all punishment, keep us from partnering with our child to find solutions since we’re making the problem all theirs.

2. Time Out usually involves isolation, causing a child to experience stress and discomfort. Isolation teaches nothing of value and does not impart knowledge or experience, and may actually cause long term harm to the brain.

3. Instead of reaffirming your relationship with your child so she WANTS to please you, timeouts fuel power struggles.

4. Time outs don’t help kids learn emotional regulation, which makes more misbehavior likely

So, what do we do instead?  A variety of techniques, including:

1. Time in – spend time with your child to help her calm herself, reaffirm that she is loved no matter what, and get the attention that she needs (this website gives a great description of how to do this)

2. Label emotions – this helps children gain emotional awareness and later self reflection and control

3. Teach strategies – when your child is calm, teach your child what is acceptable to do when angry/upset/frustrated or needing attention

get a hug

take some time alone

snuggle with a stuffy

find a new activity

ask for attention when you need it



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