While this parent may have had good intentions, I find this tactic to be less than an optimal way of helping children grow up to be the good people we want them to become.
The question "do you want a time-out?" is not a fair question; in fact, t's not a question at all because even if the child replied "no", I doubt any parent who is subscribing to time-outs in the first place would honor their children's denial of the time-out. At worst "Do you want a time-out?" is a rhetorical question -- at worst (and much more likely), it's not a question at all -- it's a threat.
And there's a reason for this; because time-outs are only "effective" when there's an imbalance in power (always in the adults favor, of course), parents must impose their will upon the child to get them to do whatever it is they want the child to do.
Because our words matter, it is really important to know where the term time-out came from: Time-out is short for time-out from positive reinforcement. In theory it was designed and implemented by behaviourist B.F Skinner on rats and pigeons, but today in practice it's used by parents on their children.
Skinner's work with time-outs had one goal: control animal behavior.
Let's take a quick look at all three words.
Firstly, a whole boat load of research around controlling parenting can be summarized by Gordon Thomas:
The more you use power to control people, the less real influence you will have on their lives.Secondly, it should concern us greatly that behaviorists see little to no difference between doing things to animals and humans to make them behave. I think we should all think long and hard about whether we are okay with subjecting our children to something that was designed on rats and pigeons.
Thirdly, misbehaviors are the symptoms of much larger problems. When we choose to treat the symptoms we ignore the underlying issues that require our real attention. There is a big difference between simply wanting a misbehavior to stop NOW! and working with kids to ensure they don't feel the need to misbehave in the first place or again. It's the difference between treating a fever with cold baths and Aspirin versus addressing the pneumonia that caused the fever.
Time-out is sold as a daring departure from the status quo when actually it is an intensification of the timeless punishments that have always failed us. After all, how would you like to be forcibly isolated from your peers in front of your peers?