Time-out good for misbehaving kids - study

Parents shouldn't hesitate to send misbehaving children to time-out, say the authors of a new study looking at the controversial form of discipline.

Opponents say putting kids in time-out or making them sit on the 'naughty step' teaches children rejection and makes them angrier, but researchers at the University of Sydney say that only happens when it's used wrongly.

"Most people think time-out is like solitary confinement or a jail sentence," Prof Mark Dadds - who led the study - told 7 News.

But it's actually "an effective and positive discipline strategy with potential to enhance all aspects of the child's development and mental health", he says.

"As soon as the child is regulated, and cool and calm and chilled-out again, the child can re-enter family life."

The problems come when parents use time-out as a punishment, rather than a strategy for calming down a misbehaving or tantrum-throwing child. Dadds says it should not be used a punishment when kids have failed to listen or made a mistake - only when they're deliberately misbehaving.

The technique, he says, is most effective on children between the ages of two and eight.

"And it needs to be done in a way where the child feels still safe and secure and loved."

British TV personality Jo Frost, who found fame with her show Supernanny, popularised the idea of the 'naughty step'. She says it's essential the child is welcomed back from time-out with "a kiss and a cuddle".

The study's findings were published in journal American Psychologist.

"These conclusions have important implication for clinical practice and policy," said Dadds. "The evidence presented here indicates the adoption of policies that prohibit time-out with children may be ill-considered and deny children in need access to an effective evidence-based procedure."