A recent scientific study shows what we SHOULDN’T do when our rugrats are acting up


Well, well, well, isn’t this interesting? Someone just sent me a very informative article about timeouts. Holy crap, did you know that a recent scientific study shows that giving timeouts to children mimics similar brain activity to children who are neglected and abused?!! Agghhh, I’ve been giving my rugrats timeouts for years and clearly F’ing them up in all kinds of ways!! The study suggests that instead of leaving children alone in isolation to calm down and learn to cope with their feelings, parents would be better off using the times that children misbehave and have tantrums to forge a bond with them and be there to hug them and soothe them during their time of need.

Results have yet to be concluded in this study because not enough time has passed, but it is believed that children who are rewarded with hugs and kisses during their tantrums and crying fits will grow up to become healthy, well-adjusted pussies who when accidentally jostled in a crowded place like on the street or public transportation will literally collapse into a pile of snot and tears because Mommy is not there to comfort them, and that they will not be able to go on job interviews by themselves because they will have trouble doing anything without Mommy’s constant attention, but that they will be hired anyway because bosses are having trouble finding any non-assholes in the pussified sea of candidates, but that even if they are hired they will soon lose their jobs because they don’t know how to do anything without their mommy holding their hand, but that’s okay because when they are fired they can call Mommy on their cell phone and she will drop everything and come running to them to hug them and kiss them and reward them for their shitty behavior by letting them move back in with her where they can lie in their twin-sized beds for the rest of their lives staring at all of the shiny trophies and medals they did not earn.

In conclusion, the next time your son or daughter is losing his or her shit, whatever you do, do not give your child a timeout and abusively make them sit alone and think about how they are acting, and please make sure to reward them by hugging and kissing them and teaching them that you will always be there by their side to fully support their a-holey, douchebaggy behavior.

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There are 33 comments for this article
  1. Heather at 10:24 am

    Oh goodness. Don’t we give advice to adults who are having trouble controlling their behavior to take a walk or remove themselves to avoid lashing out? Why should we not teach our kids the same thing. You start acting out, you need to cool down.

  2. Crystal at 10:36 am

    Wooooww, so let me see if I’ve got all this; don’t spank children, don’t yell at them, don’t make them do chores, and for the love of God DO NOT GIVE THEM A TIME OUT!! Go to them, hug them, hold them close and give them a homemade cookie for their misbehavior!! Is anyone else hearing the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” running through your head right now??

  3. Jill Loutas at 10:44 am

    If my daughter is losing her s**t because she’s really tired or frustrated (she’s three), I’ll sit and wait for her to be done and then we’ll hug ans kiss and talk about it and stuff. If she’s just being a little s**t, she cries it out alone in her room for however long it takes. That’s what seems to work for us.
    I think most parents who read this blog would feel in their gut if they thought they were doing something to hurt their kids.
    If time-out works for you, do it!!

  4. Christine at 10:45 am

    Lol, longest run-on sentence ever, and it was awesome.

  5. Jennifer at 12:25 pm

    My husband likes to bring this up every now and then, and my biggest rebuttal is, is our generation really that messed up? We come out with all of this research about how we should be parenting nowadays and I have to look back at my own generation and parents’ generation and think did we really turn out so bad? It is a lot of pressure on us parents these days, bottom line.

  6. Anne at 1:04 pm

    Check out hand in hand parenting. It supports the recent research and gives alternate ways to help children connect with you and have better behavior. One idea is that kids act out when they are scared, hurt, or have other strong feelings. Coming back to them immediately with a limit to stop the behavior, and conscious efforts to connect with them and let them express their unhappiness in a safe way, is an approach that can help them heal from whatever upset started the behavior in the first place. I have recently started applying it and it has really been helpful for me and my children. I still keep the timeouts in my back pocket, but find the need/desire to use them less and less. It’s not about berating parents who use timeouts, but finding an approach that is more effective and helpful for parent and child.

    • Jessica Hills at 9:01 pm

      Thank you so much for this. In a sea of sarcasm and judgement it’s nice to hear a different view.

    • Nicole at 10:54 am

      I second the Hand in Hand stuff. Some of it is a little too-too for me (I am skeptical that kids might be reliving birth trauma when having tantrums, for example) but from a practical standpoint, I find the techniques have made me much, much more patient and kinder, and, as a result, parenting is much more pleasurable. Sounds like you’re having the same experience.

      Sounds like the very angry parent who wrote this piece could benefit from some active partner listening, which is one of the best parts of Hand in Hand, in my opinion.

      • js at 2:37 pm

        angry parent? or frustrated with others who judge them so off of a rant about inconclusive and vague scientific studies? you get no points for being self righteous.

  7. LorinNYC at 3:20 pm

    The problem with reading articles about research in popular venues is that you get the writers perspective / interpretation and not the information specific to the research. It’s best to read the actual research and you’ll find more information about the research and how it applies. For example, they could be talking about one kind of behavior. For anyone who has a kid with disorders a hug while they are wiggin’ out could the worst thing to do. A hug might over stimulate the brain. Hell I need time outs, so I know my kids do….I make them productive. I make my little one draw and my two older ones write in a journal. They have to end with a gratitude.

  8. esophian at 4:38 pm

    of course they are stressed out — they just did something wrong and they know it and now have to face the consequences. i get stressed out too when i know i did a wrong thing, and now i try to avoid that kind of stress by not doing wrong things! it’s magical, i know. i doubt i taught myself this critical life skill.

  9. Jill at 7:34 pm

    As a former family researcher, I agree you have to be careful about how the research is interpreted for a lay audience. There are probably a lot of fine grain details about the study that didn’t make it into the pop culture interpretation. I haven’t read this study, but I doubt very much they said to give cookies and tell your child it is okay to misbehave. Children, and especially very young children, need to feel secure and safe when emotions run high and they are at fault. If they feel secure and loved, then they are better able to focus on learning from the actual mistake. As the child gets older, parents gradually should leave more and more of the responsibly on the child to try to manage their own emotions. But it should be a gradual process. If a child never receives guidance from a parent on how to handle those complex and overwhelming emotions, it is easy to understand how the child could feel neglected.

  10. Kay at 8:02 am

    “parents would be better off using the times that children misbehave and have tantrums to forge a bond with them and be there to hug them and soothe them during their time of need.”
    I can’t LOL. Someone thought it would be a fun joke. Too bad my kid doesn’t usually get time out because I spank his little tush before it gets that far. Time out is mostly for when I can’t give him a well deserved pop without beating the living daylights out of him and he has to be out of my face before I turn into the incredible Hulk.
    98% of the time he’s a pretty sweet, well-mannered, independent 3 1/2 yr old though, so I guess I’m definitely doing this wrong.

    • Nicole at 11:31 am

      My mom spanked me when I misbehaved- never hit me otherwise, just spanking. Time outs occasionally. I was also a generally very well behaved child who got good grades and was praised by my teachers for being very creative and a good student. I was also terrified of my mother. She died of cancer when I was ten. Most of my memories of her are very conflicted and filled with fear. I have very few memories of her that are warm.

      My brother, who was eight when she died, doesn’t remember her at all.

      On the bright side, I have the best stepmom in the world and she’s one of the dearest people in the world to me. She, perhaps just coincidentally, never laid a hand on us.

      • Tiff at 7:50 pm

        I was spanked by both parents when I acted up. Made me be a hard working and respectful person. I don’t have any negative memories or emotions towards my parents for punishing me when I misbehaved. I can recognize that I was being a little s**t so I got spanked. Kids test the limits, simply saying no and giving a hug will not stop that. Their whole outlook is to explore and test the limits, it’s how they discover the world. Kids also are going to experience emotions they don’t fully understand, hence tantrums, they have to be allowed to feel what they feel, but also taught what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.

  11. Bill Johnson at 12:30 pm

    Jennifer,, Yes you did turn out bad,,,1.You elected Obama..2. You’re probably going to elect Hillary.

  12. Dr Marcie at 8:33 am

    It is an interesting bit of research and entertainingly written about – thank you for sharing! My reasoning for not using time out is that it does not teach children anything. Few, if any, will learn how to self sooth when being forced to sit in a chair alone for a certain amount of time. Isn’t goal is to teach kids to pull it together or calm down or not loss it to begin with? Then, don’t we as adults need to teach them skills to do so. If you are going to give them a hug – teach them to ask for it first or provide it in a moment when they appear to be calming down. Otherwise, you run the risk of teaching them that screaming is how to get comfort.

  13. Ascolta at 2:33 pm

    Was inclined to agree with the critique. Stopped reading at “pussies.”

  14. Kyla Jones at 6:08 pm

    Anybody whose ever trained a puppy knows you get the behavior you reward with attention. Kids work the same way, so if a kid gets swamped with loving attention every time he melts down, plan on him never learning any other coping skill. (Yes, I have worked with a young woman who, upon being advised of a mistake she made and the right way to do the task, immediately called her mom to come to our office and defend her…) You’ll never learn coping skills if you never have to cope with anything. As for “healing,” not getting the third cookie you want is not a trauma that requires “healing.”

  15. LG Mahan at 6:19 am

    You did not cite the source of this yet to be concluded study. Could you?

  16. Sarah at 9:46 am

    Well now I feel like I have to jump into the fray. First and foremost children – especially young ones -don’t come in with a built in emotional vocabulary. They can *feel* an emotion, but do not necessarily know how to name it. When we say that children feel “stressed” by time out I am inclined to think that there is a whole mess of adult projection going on. Also, not for nothing, time out is *supposed* to be stressful. The point of effective discipline is to make the punishment NOT worth the crime (this is why we have a criminal justice system — albeit a largely ineffective one, but that’s a discussion for another time). Human beings rely on conditioning in order to learn how to navigate through society and survive in a world much larger than the microcosm they were born into.

    Society, in the generalized sense, has established a set of rules of which its members are supposed to adhere — rules like respect and boundaries. My job, as my child’s parent, is to ensure that my child learns about these rules. It is simply not acceptable for my child to speak to me disrespectfully, hit me, or otherwise behave like a little tyrant, because it is not acceptable for my child to behave this way in society. We have far too many entitled people in this world and I have a feeling they got that way by being raised in an environment where rules were flexible, by parents who taught their children that parental boundaries were secondary to the child’s gratification, essentially guaranteeing that a whole generation of kids grew up thinking that there aren’t consequence for shitty behavior.

    That being said, parenting in the modern age is a B***H. Parents are often overworked, exhausted, and impatient, which often leads to making rash judgments about the *why* behind a child’s behavior. Perhaps the point of this study was to get parents to be more proactive instead of reactive; to take a moment to pause and examine the context of the behavior and respond appropriately. Very often when I’m utilizing time out, it’s because *I* need it in order to cool down.

  17. D. Pat Youlk at 10:34 am

    Since you don’t cite any of the details of the study that you’ve ridiculed, you don’t give your readers the opportunity to compare our own interpretations with yours. If we agree, your take might be considered humorous; if not, it would be appalling. Not having the information I need to form an opinion on the study ( the ages of the children, the circumstances they were given time-out, the length of time-out, etc.) leaves me to form an opinion based solely on your interpretation. This is the one and only piece I’ve ever read authored by you, so I am looking at your rant without any context of your parenting style. I must say, I am not impressed.

    Most parenting bloggers are supportive of other parents who are doing the very best for their children that they can manage with the resources and information they have at their disposal. You have, instead, just gone off on any and all parents who choose emotional support in the face of a child’s melt-down vs time out. You’ve formed the judgement that children raised in this manner will be “pussies.” I find two things objectionable here: 1) Disparaging parents who think that teaching children to manage their emotions by showing love and support at a time when they are feeling overwhelmed by them sends the message that your chosen parenting style is the only correct one. And 2) Using the term “pussies” to describe emotionally weak or overly attached to mommy is completely inappropriate, even if you have the mistaken idea that this type of person is the inevitable result of a parent’s failure to provide time-out. You do realize that term “p***y” — a female; not a feline — is a derogatory reference that implies that females are the mewling, insecure, dependent, incompetent creatures that you are claiming these children will become. Shame on you.

    Something not addressed in your rant or your edited “reporting” of the study was the circumstances of timing a child out and the manner in which it was executed. A time out can be either a punishment for bad behavior or a re-grouping period for acting out on exceptional emotions. Or both. It’s a parent’s responsibility to recognize whether a child is being willfully disobedient, throwing a tantrum as a means of getting their own way, or reacting to what feels like the end of the world. (Yes, being told “no” can feel like the end of the world to a three-year-old.) When time-out is used as a punishment for expressing unmanageable emotions, it teaches the child that expressing emotion will lead to negative consequences. This societal lesson has led to many more emotionally constipated adults than will ever emerge as emotional incompetents from being loved through their tough toddler moments.

    I won’t be reading any more of your writings, but according to the cover of the book you’ve written, you have self-described ” mediocre” parenting skills. Not knowing you or your skills, I can’t make a judgement on that. But your writing and assessment skills seem to be something a bit less than mediocre.

  18. sharonnmurch at 12:15 pm

    My five kids are all very nice adult human beings now. I definitely hugged them when they had melt downs (when possible, which is not always). It’s my experience that if kids know that the love, attention, reassurance are there when they need them, they actually need them less often. It is impossible to spoil a human being with love. And as for discipline, I tried a lot of things, but my real go-to method evolved into having in-depth conversations about their behavior. They would behave themselves just to avoid that!

    • AJWoods at 4:02 pm

      Hahaha! That’s what my Dad did to me. Some of his lectures would last for HOURS! It was well worth being well behaved just to avoid “The Talk”.

  19. Nathan at 5:02 pm

    What a weird article. The second paragraph is nothing but a strawman of some huge number of horrible and helpless people you imagine to exist. It brims over with hubris and self-righteousness. On top of that, you repeatedly make out that a hug is some kind of reward. Love is unconditional.

    There is no contradiction between unconditional love and raising a child to be resourceful and resilient.

  20. Sabrina at 6:45 pm

    Idk about timeouts, soaking, or hugs and kisses. I tried them all and still had troubled kids. (Baring my soul here, don’t judge) I’m hoping my third one won’t be a strike out. Not that the older two are ruined, but they gave me heck. My youngest is 12. So far, so good. Rarely had to discipline him. What was different was *me*. I changed. I was 20 n 22 w my first broke, and in a rough marriage. I had ZERO patience. I’d respond to any stress with anger and hollering. At 32 w my last one, life was completely different. I was happily married, settled, secure, and well.. changed. Maybe being older I had more patience naturally? Whatever the case, I think it makes a difference in how *we* respond to the acting out. Freaking out n throwing them into timeout doesn’t help at all. Doing it with patience.. any discipline with patience and self control makes a world of difference.

  21. Early childhood Educator at 1:30 am

    The best way to make sure your children (a child) (the little monster being that seems to have risen from the ashes and “Geez I had nothing to do with it, I raised this little person different”) continues on with a wonderful behaviour like a tantrum is to give them hugs and kisses and make them feel all wonderful inside! Where do these feather brained parents get their advise from? Do they search the Internet for”most ridiculous ideas on how to raise mal-adjusted adults? If they are going to raise children to become a problem for society maybe we need to start taxing these particular parents right from the birth of their child (you know the idiot tax).

  22. Sarah at 10:38 am

    I have a 5 year old daughter. She is a complete a-hole!!. I will always believe inn time out, spanking, and strict discipline. I was raised in a time where if you did something your parents didnt like then they whipped ur little a*s. My daughter isnt going to be the kid that does something wrong and gets loves for it. Yes after she straightens her sh*t up I will sit down talk to her and tell her what she did wrong and then give her a hug

  23. Lori B at 11:51 am

    Every kid is different, some methods of discipline will work for one kid but not the other. If parents are tuned in to their kids, they will know what works and use it. Also, it sometimes takes trial and error. The kids won’t break or be emotionally traumatized for life if you try something once or twice only to abandon it because it didn’t work. Kids are resilient.

    If you are a thoughtful parent that acts with deliberation and love, you’ll figure it out. Trust yourself and your ability to parent your own children before you trust any stranger’s advice, no matter how well meaning.

    And above all else, keep your judgmental and sanctimonious opinions to yourself. Unless you see abuse or neglect or recognize that some kid might soon be in danger that the parent doesn’t see, just shut the hell up. Recognize that your perspective on someone else’s parenting choices is limited to only what you are seeing in THAT MOMENT IN TIME.

    And finally, there is a difference between being an interfering busybody and lending a hand. Helping other kids to follow the rules, learn how to live in society, or learn how to be safe is not what I’m referring to above. I want the help of other concerned adults, and I will lend that hand when I see someone else’s child needs a bit of coaching along those lines. It’s my duty to society to help in that way, but I will quickly back off as soon as the parent is in it – because guess what? I think you know how to parent your children better than I do, and I am first and foremost going to trust you to do that. I will only interfere further if your child is in danger or being abused or neglected by you.

    That is all.

  24. Marta at 11:39 pm

    So where’s the study? If the science says timeouts aren’t effective, I’d like to know that.

  25. mrivan1 at 4:36 am

    You wonder why todays kids grow up to be spoiled brats? Now you know. Babies thru toddlers cry to get attention when they feel emotional pain. Sometimes adults do the same thing. Coddling them is no good, NOR is spanking, yelling or invalidating them.

    They need acceptance, but not the kind of acceptance that spoils them and sends the message that all they have to do is cry and they are in command. That just reinforces the crying pattern.

    When mine cried, I took note. I calmly asked what the problem was. If it was a physical hurt, I’d check it out and take action if needed, such as a bandaid on a scraped knee, whatever. If the problem was emotional, I’d calmly get the details and offer whatever variety of guidance was appropriate.

    They need strength. They need respect. They need understanding. They need to be encouraged to deal with their own problems with guidance and support. They need to learn a lesson about life each time they have a moment of pain — that’s what it is for.

    When they learn that lesson, they don’t have to experience that pain again.

    Finally, a wise man once said, “When you are with children, do not deceive yourself that you are a Juggernaut in a field of fragile daffodils. You’re far more likely to be a fragile daffodil in a field of Juggernauts!”