Dr. Camilo Ortiz, co-director of clinical training at LIU Post's Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

Dr. Camilo Ortiz, associate professor of psychology and co-director of clinical training in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at LIU Post, explains how a timeout can be a useful tool for disciplining children in his recent article on parenting published in the Washington Post.

Under the headline, “Timeouts get a bad rap, but they work—when used correctly,” Dr. Ortiz tells how they can be the right way to modify the wrong behavior in young children.

“The term timeout is short for timeout from positive reinforcement, and it’s intended to be a ‘break’ from fun,” Dr. Ortiz wrote. “It’s not intended to be particularly punitive and is a safe, highly effective consequence for disobedience and aggression.”

According to Dr. Ortiz, many studies have found that timeouts can reduce misbehavior for young children ages 2 to 6. Just as important, he said, they offer parents a better strategy than resorting to physical discipline such as spanking. He cited the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their support of timeout as a “best practice” in managing young children.

“In fact, using timeouts as a tool to help parents set limits reduces the incidence of physical abuse by caregivers,” he wrote.

He directly took on critics of the technique who say that a timeout “ignores children’s feelings, reduces their self-esteem and may even be traumatizing.” As he put it, “there is no scientific evidence for any of this.”

In his Washington Post article he provided four points for parents who want to get the best results when they give their kids a timeout. In a nutshell they were: “Decide exactly what warrants a timeout;” “Don’t use it for what psychologists call ‘escape behaviors;’” “Decide beforehand where the timeout will be and for how long;” and “Have a plan for when (not if) your child refuses to go to timeout or leaves timeout early.”

Clinical psychologists Mitch Prinstein, Ann Marie Albano, Tim Cavell, Regine Galanti, Stephen Hupp, Daniel Hoffman and LIU Post Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Director Hilary Vidair also contributed to this piece.