January 6, 2017
West Coast University
This paper critiques a column written by Wendy Thomas Russell on why we should not use time outs on our children. This essay goes on by quoting information Russell uses to support the claim by her parenting instructor, that timeouts can be potentially harmful to a child. Russell uses good formatting by getting her point across and can even persuade some of her readers into using another form of disciplinary action. However, even though she used great formatting, she failed to reference her sources and include an alternative method to her claim. Many of her readers, as I read in the comment box, felt as though they wasted their time reading her article. However, I still feel there is a substantial amount of information that can potentially help you find your own solution to your child’s bad behavior. Overall Russell wrote a well-rounded column that was easy to interpret and straight to the point.
Keywords: Behavior, Parenting, Children, Discipline, Timeout
A recent column by Wendy Thomas Russell, shows that a mother spanking her children is dramatically decreasing and resorting to timeouts. However, studies have shown that even giving your child a time out can negatively affect them. Some parents are baffled by this as I also was when reading this article because one thinks that a time out is only benefiting your child to act correctly. Little did we know we are only harming our children by giving them timeouts.As B. F. Skinner, the father of behaviorism, once said, "What's wrong with punishments is that they work immediately but give no long-term results. The responses to punishment are either the urge to escape, to counterattack, or a stubborn apathy. These are the bad effects you get in prisons or schools, or wherever punishments are used" (Goleman, 1987, p. B1).Most experts are urging us to stop punishing our children andinstead listen to them in order to understand why they act the way that they do. According to Russell in her PBS news column, Hatfield (Russell’s parenting class instructor) once said that most children act the way they do for a reason and not necessarily to misbehave but because they are still learning or one of their basic needs is not being met.
Anyhow, I n the first three paragraphs of the column the author, Wendy Thomas Russell, begins by introducing the problem of her article with a personal story with her husband and daughter. Russell begins by writing that when her daughter was five years old and really pushing her and her husbands buttons they decided to go to a parenting class. Then in the second paragraph, Russell begins to introduce the problem by explaining how she would discipline her child when she would act out. Russell explains that she would first put her child in a timeout and if that did not work she would remove a toy of privilege.However, at this point it is unclear of whether she will we talking about how she disciplines her child during the class or if her disciplinary methods are incorrect. Further into the article in the third paragraph, Russell continues with her experience and explains how within 15 minutes of their class time the instructor, (Linda Hatfield), interrupted class by stating that, “decades of neuroscience and social research have shown that timeouts and other methods of punishment are not only ineffective in steering the behavior of children but outright damaging” (Paragraph 3). At this point the author makes it clear of what the rest of the column will be about, that is how giving your child a timeout is as damaging as a spanking is.
In addition, Russell adds supporting information from the father of behaviorism, B.F. Skinner, when he said, “timeouts are a form of light punishment in which a child is placed in a certain spot for a set period of time. Often, the child is made to stay “in timeout,” even if it requires restraint, and is ignored for the duration” (paragraph 5). She also supports evidence that timeouts are damaging to children by naming three people (Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson, and Vanessa LaPointe) who have done extensive research on timeouts and how they can prove through various experiments on how timeouts are ineffective. Russell added that LaPointe, in her many experiments, always asked parents who have children with behavioral issues what their form of disciplinary action was and nine out of ten times they say timeouts. At this point of the column Russell has given an extensive amount of information supporting the claim that timeouts can be potentially be damaging while focusing a lot on LaPoints evidence. Russell Supported this claim further by stating how LaPointe once said that punishment is harmful because, “It takes the core need of the child… and uses it as a bargaining chip. A child has a lot of core needs, she said, but one of the most vital is emotional attachment; the very thing parents sacrifice when they place their kids in timeouts. The more you use punishments to respond to behavior, the more you are actually escalating behavior and creating a reality where you have more behavior problems,” LaPointe said.(Paragraph 9).
Wendy Russell did and extensive amount of research making sure that the claim against timeouts is in fact true and not just some theory made up by her parenting class instructor. So many parents believe that a timeout is a healthier form of punishment than spanking is when in fact it is almost the same. She also organized her information in an informative way showing scientific research while also trying to persuade her readers in my opinion. For example, if the readers have children or plan to have children, to try and use another form of punishment when it comes to disciplining their children. Russell’s column has great length while also keeping you engaged with her own personal examples without boring you with so much information. Wendy gives examples for her readers to understand how a time out would be ineffective by asking us to imagine if our spouse would take away our coffee or wine every day in an effort for us to become more patient. We won’t become more patient, we may fake it for a while to get what we want but it will eventually ruin your relationship and there will be no long-term correction only momentary. Russell then shares a quote on how Dr. Alan Kazkin, director of the Yale Parenting Center, suggests how we should go about disciplining our children through tamping down tantrums by role-playing and positive reinforcement, not timeouts.In addition, Wendy adds how parenting columnist Elisa Strauss disagrees with Kazkin because as much as we would all like to believe that parents would only have to deliver encouraging observations and loving smiles to keep our children in check is just not the case. Therefor, Strauss believes that at times gentle punishments such as timeouts are absolutely appropriate.
In the portion of the article where Russell discusses Kazkin vs. Strauss, she explains how even such a talented parenting reporter can be blinded by the fact that something momentarily works by dismissing Kazkins research as theory because what he knows through science doesn’t coincide with what she feels through experience. So not only does Wendy use information that supports the information but she also uses information that contradicts the evidence that timeouts are a bad disciplinary action. Russell also has an outstanding way of bringing real life experiences into the equation, by using her own and her parent friends experiences to resort to when analyzing the scientific evidence conducted by various scientists. Anyhow, after a long and informational column Russell concludes by stating that just because something momentarily curbs behavior doesn’t make it right or harmless. She also went on by saying that she and her husband will no longer give their daughter time outs and see her acts as ways to push their buttons but, “a 5-year-old girl with a 5-year-old brain and a 5-year-old’s heart” (Paragraph 17).
To conclude, Russell overall made an excellent attempt at supporting her claim and even persuading some of her readers to stop giving their children timeouts. Wendy, however, at the end of her article did not reference any of the information used in the column. Even though she used in text citations, she did not physically put a link to where she retrieved her information. Anyhow, I do think that many parents and non-parents can benefit from the information of this article and even have a new perspective on parenting and disciplining even though I do not. I still believe that a timeout can be very effective if done correctly. However, Another key thing that I think readers would have benefited from was if Russell would have included a solution to children’s bad behavior. I as a parent asked myself, “Ok, if timeouts or spanking do not work, then what does?” I then actually read some of the reader’s comments to get their perspective and some actually felt they wasted their time entirely because what they’re really looking for is the alternative. I also believe that the article would have benefitted from interviews with people who are experienced with dealing with children’s behavioral issues and not only the scientific approach. However, overall Russell’s column was well-rounded and full of information, well formatted, easy to understand and straight to the point.
Wendy Thomas Russell. (April 28, 2016). PBS NEWSHOUR. Why you should never
use timeouts on your kids.