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Time-out Versus Corporal Punishment: Which is Better?

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                It cannot be emphasized more the importance of raising a child to be a well-mannered individual. Equally as important as teaching a child positive behaviors is the reduction of negative behaviors. It is important for a parent to have behavioral control over their children. The two most used disciplining styles are time-out or removal of privileges and punishment. Some situations require the use of time-out, whereas others demand a more severe discipline. The effects of the two styles differ. Each has its own merits and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important that a parent knows what style to apply in a specific situation to have a more effective child discipline.

    Time-out Versus Corporal Punishment: Which is Better?

    I. Introduction

                One of the hardest challenges is to ensure that a child grows up to be a good person. Because of the fast-paced life nowadays and various negative influences around, it is crucial that parents know how to raise their children properly. Child discipline is a complex process, in which the outcome is influenced by several factors unique to the environment, the parent, and the child. Disciplining styles vary from one parent to another. Some focus on the positive behavior of a child and encourage it, whereas others prioritize stopping and preventing negative behavior. The extent of disciplining a child ranges from verbal warning to spanking. However, parents usually mix different parenting styles, although there are some techniques more dominant than others. Generally, the parent’s personality and own childhood experience determine the type of disciple applied to a child, but the age, gender, and personality of a child are factors as well (Wyse, 2004).

                The root word comes from the disciplinare, which means to treat or to instruct. Thus, parents have to teach their children to be competent but to still have self-control and to be caring. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (1998) suggests three components that are important to discipline a child effectively: applying punishment, positive reinforcement strategies, and a positive and loving parent‑child relationship. Naturally, a parent’s reaction to a child’s behavior would yield positive results if in the context of love. Love gives the child a feeling of warmth, protection, and guidance from the parent. Each of the three elements suggested by the AAP should function adequately to result to a desirable behavior.

                A critical factor in shaping the attitude of a child is discipline. A child’s misbehavior should be met with discipline. Any behavior that places the child or others in danger should be prevented immediately, but other undesirable attitudes should be discouraged as well, such as a noncompliance with reasonable demands of the parent and any behavior that interferes with positive social interactions and self-discipline (AAP, 1998). Every situation requires appropriate response from the parent. Sometimes, a child has to be reprimanded immediately. In other occasions, letting emotions subside first is the better approach. Thus, a parent has to know which approach to use in a particular situation. At present, the two most applied strategies parents use to reduce undesirable behavior are time-out or removal of privileges and corporal punishment.

    II. Corporal punishment

    A. Positive effects

                Corporal punishment ranges from a simple tapping in the hand to extreme cases that sometimes lead to abuse such as beating and scalding. AAP (1998) defined corporal punishment as bodily punishment of any kind and spanking, a form of corporal punishment, as the slapping with an open hand in the buttocks without causing serious physical harm and used only to reprimand bad behavior. Nowadays, spanking remains to be the most commonly used form of child discipline.

                A study that reviewed the outcomes of customary physical punishment suggests that nonabusive smacking is a useful reinforcement to other nonphysical discipline styles with children from 2 to 6 years old (Larzelere, 1996). In a supportive environment, the beneficial effects of spanking outweigh the detrimental effects in children (Sharkey, 1996).

                Moreover, a developmental research indicates that there are more optimal outcomes from a more authoritative style of parenting which mixes encouraging good behavior and consistent controlling of bad behavior (Baumrind, 1973). Affection and firm expectations of behavior, through moderate discipline, work hand in hand. Children who grew up in an authoritative family grew up to be more socially competent than others.

    Baumrind, a research psychologist, insists that young children need punishment. Although encouragement is a good tool in disciplining a child, a parent still has to control problem behavior. Spanking, when not abused, is a useful aid in the process of behavioral control. To some extent, others have argued that some styles may have even more harmful effect to a child as spanking is over immediately compared with, for example, telling children that they are not loved if they misbehave (Baumrind, 1973).

    B. Negative effects

                Perhaps corporal punishment is the most debated issue in parenting. The greatest opponent of spanking is perhaps the AAP. The organization believes that spanking has limited effectiveness and may even have harmful effects. They also argued that, since punishment is no more effective as others, there is no reason to prefer it against others. Moreover, majority of psychologists believe that spanking can lead to later emotional problems and people who are spanked are likely to be depressed and to have low self-esteem (AAP, 1998).

                In children <18 months, this may result to physical injury. In addition, children at this age do not understand yet the relation between punishment and their behaviors. Repeated spanking may result to aggressive behavior in children, which may lead to a further physical fight between parent and child. Moreover, as spanking alters the relationship between parent and child, it becomes difficult for a parent to find alternative disciplining strategies when spanking cannot be applied anymore, such as in adolescents. In addition, parents may have the probability of using spanking increasingly as the parents usually feel relief after spanking (AAP, 1998).

    Despite the initial effectiveness of spanking, many believe that this can be abusive because, to be effective, spanking needs increasing force each time it is used. Moreover, it only has a short-term effect in reducing negative behavior. After being hit, a child would comply immediately to the parent but it does not assure that the desired behavior is learned (Sharkey, 1996). Also, it has been reported that there is decreasing effectiveness each time spanking is used. In addition, researchers believe that it introduces violence to children, making them think that violence is a solution to conflicts (Wilson & Lyman, 1982). Moreover, studies have shown that it causes a cycle. Children who are spanked have a tendency to spank their own children, who are likely to hit a spouse, which consequently results to a marital conflict as adults. Finally, studies have shown a correlation between spanking and substance abuse, physical aggression, and increased probability of committing crime when used with adolescents (AAP, 1998). As children adapt behaviors they see from their parents, it is suggested that parents refrain from spanking their children.

    II. Time-out

    A. Positive effects

                Time-out is the more preferred approach of child experts. It is the removal of privileges that a child values. For younger children, the most valued is parental attention. Parents ignore their child or order the child to sit in a chair for a specific period. During that period, a child would have no interaction with their parent. For older children, it can range from television grounding to driving prohibition. Children are denied from activities that they enjoy, but the parents have to explain the necessity of their action. Time-out has to be enforced consistently and with an appropriate duration (AAP, 1998).

                It has to be noted that, when time-out is first applied to a child, it would result to a negative behavior, such as tantrums, as the child would test the extent the parents would enforce this strategy. Later on, the child’s emotional outbursts gradually decreased and the parents would succeed in diminishing the bad behavior. Importantly, using time-out will not affect the child’s self-esteem. Time-out is most effective when used as a long-term strategy (AAP, 1998).

    B. Negative effects

                Although time-out would elicit favorable results in the long run, it has no immediate effect. Furthermore, it is natural that parents would have difficulty ignoring their child. Thus, when a parent fails to totally deny giving attention that is supposedly temporarily cut out from the child, time-out would lose its effectiveness and the undesirable behavior would remain and, to some extent, would even worsen.

    III. Conclusion

                Ensuring the proper development of a child is integral to society. As important as teaching children good values and morals, parents also have to make sure that misbehaviors are reduced or eliminated. Time-out or removal of privileges and punishment are the most common approaches in child discipline. Parents have to determine when to apply each of these strategies to gain the desired result. The effects of these two styles vary, both short and long term. Importantly, parents have to let children feel that disciplining them is actually a symbol of their parents’ love for them. Children have to understand reasons why they are being disciplined.


    American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (1998). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics,

    101 (4), 723.

    Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and

    substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11 (1), 56‑95.

    Larzelere, R. E. (1996). A review of the outcomes of parental use of nonabusive or customary

    physical punishment. Pediatrics, 98, 824‑828.

    Sharkey M. (Ed.) (1996). The short and long term consequences of corporal punishment.

    Pediatrics, 98 (suppl), 857‑858.

    Wilson D. R. & Lyman R. D. (1982). Time-out in the treatment of childhood behaviour

    problems: implementation and research issues. Child Family Behav Ther., 4, 5–20.

    Wyse, D. (Ed.) (2004). Childhood studies. UK: Blackwell Publishing.

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