Creative Child

The Trouble with Separation-Based Discipline Part 1

by Rebecca Eanes


When you look at time-outs from this viewpoint, it’s heartbreaking to think that we often use a child’s need for connection against them. As if that weren’t enough reason to stop using them, it turns out that it doesn’t even make sense developmentally. Dr. Deborah MacNamara, author of Rest, Play, Grow , on faculty at the Neufeld Institute, and Director of Kids’ told me, “Young children can't think twice before acting, which is why consequences fail to alter future performances. It is not until the 5 to 7 shift in brain development occurs can they think twice.” 


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Bridgett Miller concurs, saying, “The notion of sending a young child into what they experience as physical and emotional solitary confinement, is not only disturbing, it’s illogical. Young children do not go off and think about the error of their ways, nor do they consider what they could do differently next time. Not because they intentionally refuse to, but because their immature brains are non-integrated and they are not yet capable of reflecting on their undesirable behaviour, least of all when they are flooded by feelings of alarm because they have been sent away.”


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So, emotionally it’s damaging and developmentally it’s useless. Not only that, but using love as a reward sets humans up for all sorts of mental issues later on. Connection is not a reward; it’s a lifeline. It isn’t something to dangle like a carrot in front of their noses, offering a sense of security, trust, and unwavering love only when they behave well and yanking it away when their behavior is off-track. Dr. MacNamara told me, “When parental love is used as a tool to shape behaviour a child is made to work for approval by meeting parental demands, negating any chance for true rest.”

If spanking is out, and time-outs are out, what tools do parents have left? What about the popular discipline technique that inspired 1-2-3 Magic? And how can parents effectively discipline their children?

In Part 2 of this piece, we will discuss how magical counting to three really is and what kind of discipline really works on the developing mind.



Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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