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Why it's 'Time Out' on the naughty step

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Used as method to punish bad behaviour
The naughty step

Ten plus years ago Super Nanny gloriously marched ‘naughty’ children off to the ‘naughty step’ for a ‘time out’ as punishment for an undesired behaviour the child had demonstrated. As the TV programme showed, a battle of wills and the persistent placing the child back on the naughty step every time the child dared to veer away from their allocated spot the child eventually gave in and was somehow cured of all wrongs. 

In times of challenge, parenting is hard, it’s draining and it’s unforgiving so we will try whatever works for us and gives us temporary relief from difficult, challenging situations.  The naughty step has worked for many parents and provides a simple solution as clearly portrayed in the TV programme.  However, after the TV cameras had finished filming and the Super Nanny had left it is questionable what long term impact that method had on long term behavioural change.  There is no doubt that technique was a punishment not a discipline method and one which falls under the blame and shame category.

But times have moved on and there are a generation of parents wanting more, wanting results after the naughty step no longer works and wanting long term behavioural change that helps the child learn healthier alternatives to their behaviour.

Here is why you should avoid the naughty step;

It is a ‘might is right’ technique that is more about the parent having external control over the child and can lead to a stand off when the child no longer wants to stay on the step. This can be exhausting for the parents and can cause greater distress to the child.

It is a blame and shame technique that misses the opportunity for the child to learn from their behaviour in the moment, understand the immediate impact, take responsibility and form their own strategies of how they can learn and move forward.

This technique can cause a negative association with a particular area of the house and act as a trigger for future behavioural challenges.

The alternative...

MINDSET; When presented with challenging behaviour.  Take a deep breath, hold it for the count of 8, exhale and remember this is your child’s best attempt to meet their needs and they are using the behaviour they believe to be the most effective at getting what they want. Remember rather than jumping straight to PUNISH think now is a great opportunity to TEACH and instil discipline

UNDERSTAND; What is driving the behaviour?  What is the behaviour trying to achieve and how can you help the child understand the impact of their behaviour and help them choose more appropriate behaviour to get their needs met.

MODEL;  Behaviours that you want the child to copy and adopt, such as being calm, composed, clearly communicating in a simple manner and negotiating any differences. Don’t blame, as this will only lead to defensiveness instead offer the opportunity for the child to change their behaviour, empowering and leading to taking responsibility. This rarely happens when blame and shame techniques are used.


There is only one thing for us to do and that is do our best, right where we are every day of our lives.

- Orison Swett Marden

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