Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Naughty Corner - Why I don't Use It

Like many people, I have, on occasion watched Supernanny. I have to admit, the first few times I saw it, I thought it was a spoof! Surely pitting parents against their children in a battle of wills with a perfectly dressed but ill-advised so called Supernanny was a joke? I'm no child behaviour expert, but I have 20 years experience with special needs childrens and adults, and the way she was advising these parents to treat their small children, particularly those under 5 appalled me. She broke every rule I have ever been taught.

On one of my parenting forums a few of the parents can spend up to 45 minutes forcing their children to stay on a "naughty step" for up to 2 minutes. The "wisdom" from Supernanny and her ilk is that a child spends as many minutes on the step as they are old, so 2 minutes for 2 years old, 3 minutes for 3 years old etc. Every time they get up, you put them back. To me this is restraint, and if you did it on an adult say with learning disabilities you could be prosecuted!

I do think there is a role for "time out" but not naughty steps and spots and chairs. I take Joseph out of situations. The picture above was taken in Germany at Christmas time. Joseph was over stimulated, over tired and generally grumpy. His grandparents were inadvertantly making things worse by making things confrontational, so I scooped him up into his pram and took him to the park to blow off steam. I have been known to open the door into the garden and give him a football if he is in a rage. Far better to kick a football than me. Redirection is key.

I am reassured that I am not the only person who feels the way I do about the naughty step, you can read more here and here.

Here are my reasons:

Labelling - If you label a child enough times, they will end up reacting to type. If you put a child on a "naughty" step or chair or spot they will start thinking that are naughty and will behave to type thus making their behaviour worse.

Attention giving - children love attention and quite rightly too. If they are not given enough attention they will behave badly to ensure this attention is given, even if its to spend 45 minutes battling over a step. Why not put a stop to this and give loads of positive attention? To me 45 minutes is a waste of everyone's energy.

Objectifying behaviour - If you label a certain activitiy as naughty, say throwing food, the child may then throw food just to get on the naughty step to watch mum and/or dad getting increasingly stressed over trying to control that behaviour.

Withdrawal of love is just wrong - Like it or not, the "naughty step" is a withdrawal of love technique, and I think sends a deeper message. "I don't love you unconditionally, I only love you when you do the right thing. I have seen a key point of the naughty step is to get the child to then apologise and give you a hug. I just think this is wrong. You've forced the child out of the situation, enforced your will to make them sit on a step for 2-4 minutes, and now you want a hug?

There are oodles of positive parenting techniques that work with toddlers. Joseph is, for the most part, a very lovely, well behaved little boy. But he's a toddler. His understanding of the world is limited and at times he rages against it. We learn, as adults, to control our rage, but toddlers act on wild, pure emotion.

Getting to a child's level, speaking gently, redirecting them to a more positive activity, to me is a far more worthwhile process than battling over a naughty step.

I love this quote from Alfie Kohn

I discovered some disconcerting research on the damaging effects of techniques like the “naughty corner” (better known as time-out), which are basically forms of love withdrawal. I also found quite a bit of evidence that parents who refrain from excessive control and rely instead on warmth and reason are more likely to have children who do what they’re asked – and who grow into responsible, compassionate, healthy people. 
I don't want a child who is frightened of me, living in fear of being placed on a naughty step. I want a child who is happy, confident and knows right from wrong. My method may not bring spectacular, immediate results that look good on television, but I am confident I am doing the right thing for Joseph by eschewing this horrible method.



  1. I find it quite upsetting when you say that putting your child on time out is a withdrawal of love. At no point would I ever say that I don't love my child because they've been naughty, it's important for children to learn that, while you do love then unconditionally, some behaviours are simply unacceptable. I wouldn't put my child on time out for anything minor, like what you describe with Joseph (being grumpy etc) and in that situation, I would just try to distract her with something else. But if my daughter was to hit somebody, or spit, or something else totally unacceptable, then in this instance I would put her on a time out, after I had explained what was wrong about what she'd done. She then has time to reflect on what we've spoken about, and once she's done that, we talk about it again. I then tell her that I love her, that I'm proud of her for listening to me and we have a cuddle. The cuddle is to reassure her that everything is okay and we haven't fallen out. You're entitled to do whatever you want with your son, and to raise him in whichever manner you feel most appropriate, but please don't cast judgements upon the rest of us.

  2. I find I have to agree with the poster below. It is unfair to refer to the naughty corner or timeout as 'a withdrawal of love'. We use the term timeout in this house and not 'naughty' corner for the very reason you have specified above but I would like to say that here I find once again an article with an all or nothing view on parenting. There is never room for a mix, or an appreciation that all children are wired differently. Honestly, if you had ever been faced with my three year old throwing a tantrum (which she has been doing since she was 9 months old) you would appreciate the timeout method. She has to be removed from the situation in a firm and controlled manner. Her tantrums are borne from frustration at not being able to do the things she wants, mostly grown up, often unsafe things. BECAUSE her view of the world is limited to herself and her needs and BECAUSE she has limited understanding, trying to explain why she can't do something, however lovingly I may say it, will have no effect whatsoever as the answer is still no. If the timeout method is used properly you shouldn't be spending 45mins putting them back on the step/spot/corner etc. I have one of the most strong willed toddlers I know and it took one day for timeout to become effective as there are clear boundaries - which some children need. I don't disagree that for your son sending him to burn off the energy works, but I don't agree with sweeping statements that I am somehow damaging my child by using timeout. Yes, she is strong willed and determined and often has tantrums because the world actually doesn't revolve around her but she is also confident, extremely bright and chatty and a very loving and friendly little girl, which is not what the quote or your post would have people believe.

  3. Surely she can express an opinion on her own blog.. It's not like she's going on other peoples blogs and shouting the odds is it?

  4. Interesting read Kylie - I don't use it though have watched its effectiveness on Supernanny many times. I just don't think Alfie would understand it. I wonder if those who spend so long trying to make it work have children who are simply too young to understand what it means. I also disagree with 'making' young toddlers say sorry when they have no comprehension of what they're saying or what it means. I find it interesting talking to my parents and aunties who say that discipline was already instilled before needing the naughty step and therefore it shouldn't be needed - interesting perspective??

  5. The naughty corner IS a withdrawal of love. That's the inherent threat in its use! Whether the patents above intended it to be for "reflection", what it actually becomes is "I misbehaved so you are embarrassing me and forcing me to be ALONE". Why is solitary confinement a punishment?

  6. SupporterOfSupperNanny11 April 2012 at 10:58

    I agree with JL and Jennymeadow. Time out - however you as a parent seem fit - is needed. My children are now 19 and 15, and yes, they have had time out when they were younger. I feel that you are praising good behavour by letting him to play football or to go out somewhere.

    That to me is avoiding the issue, and preventing a child from learning what is right and what is wrong. Children these days are too "protected" from society and they need to learn that there is punishments for doing wrong.

    What is wrong with a naughty step? What is wrong with a child when he/she is wrong and they have to apologise? What is wrong having time out?

    Children cannot and should not be allowed to rule a parents life, making it impossible for them - there has to be boundaries set in concrete otherwise there will be payback later in life.

    I have watched SuperNanny and I admire how she can turn a disruptive child intent on mass destruction into a nice child, also giving help to parents.

    Just wait for the teen years, and the terrible three's - when your child does not want to go shopping, does not want to sit in a pram, does not want to play football, does not want to do what you want to do.

    Good luck.

    P.S. My children, (who were disiplined) are now very kind, courteous caring young people and we are very proud of them. We love them as much as any other person and they make us so proud. Any "punishment" was done out of love - not hatred or malice.

  7. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Supernanny makes for great telly, no one can deny that. Confrontation is compelling viewing. My style of parenting - rapport building, empathy and boundary setting wouldn't fill an hour.

    I resent the suggestion, however, that because I am not using the naughty step that I am somehow raising an undisciplined feral child, as I am most certainly not.

    I was never put on a naughty step, or naughty corner. I learnt respect from an early age.

    Joseph is almost 3. I get endless comments on his manners, saying please and thank you, and his consideration of others.

    I have been accused of judging others by my statements, which, as is clear, are evidenced by others research.

    I do set very clear boundaries, but I do not need to label my child as naughty to achieve that.

    There is more than one way of effectively parenting a child.

  8. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I totally agree, I think these techniques are inappropriate for small children. I was never put on a naughty step or naughty corner, and I think I turned out ok.

  9. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I am sorry you are upset by that statement but its not mine, and it comes from my reading that I have done on the subject.

    What I meant was, in that moment, love is withdrawn, the child is separated from that. Hitting, spitting etc is totally unacceptable, and I do agree, if age appropriate time out is essential, as I state at the beginning of the piece.

    Again I apologise and I thnk what has happened is that you and other readers particularly on my facebook page have read "withdrawl of love" and its overshadowed by other comments.

    I do stand by the fact I think the cuddle is confusing for a child under 3. I think when the are older, it's different but for very young children, I think that its confusing.

    I am sorry you feel that I am passing judgement but the title clearly states "naughty corner why I don't use it" If I had entitled it "why you should not use the naughty corner" then fair enough.

  10. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I did state right at the beginning of the post that there is a role for time outs, and I think my strong comments later have overshadowed this.

    I have covered your points in my replies below, I think, but thanks again for reading.

  11. all you wrote seems true IF children were naturally good, but they're not. humans are evil by nature, which is why it is not enough to just teach them right from wrong and think they'll do whats right. because eventually flesh will kick in and they'll be saying 'i'll do what i want' 'i don't wanna clean my room' 'i don't wanna do homework' etc my dad was a real authority in the house and i was scared of him, but he also showed me love more than anybody at the time. i respect him, love him and thank him, because he raised me well and if i lived with him in my teenage years i probably wouldn't make many mistakes that i now regret. i noticed that the things i knew to be 'unacceptable' in my life, i just wouldnt do, but the ones that were 'wrong', i did, cos i didnt care. most people dont, especially if they have pop singers telling them 'its so good being bad' and 'i am no angel'