The mother of two wrote a Facebook post about her views on timeouts and it's been shared more than 36,000 times.

By Anna Halkidis
April 19, 2019
Laura Muhl's child
Credit: Laura Muhl

April 19, 2019

“You need a timeout” and “Go to your room” are punishments tons of parents have used to teach their kids discipline throughout the ages. A Pew Research Center survey once found 41 percent of parents with kids younger than 6 give them a timeout.

But one mom made it clear on Facebook that she believes this type of parenting could be harmful. And her post quickly went viral with more than 36,000 shares and upwards of 6,000 comments.

Laura Muhl, a mother of two daughters, Evelyn, 6, and Scarlett, 1, opened the post sharing words from author L.R. Knost’s book, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline: “Perhaps [one of the reasons] teens isolate themselves when they’re overwhelmed instead of coming to us [for help] with their problems is because when they’re toddlers we isolate them when they’re overwhelmed instead of helping them with their problems." 

The words resonated with her, she told, because she remembers being punished as a child and never being able to speak about her feelings. She believes it caused her to struggle in her relationships and suffer anxiety and depression as an adult. 

Her Facebook post went on to explain that small kids throw tantrums in attempt to deal with their emotions and communicate with adults. “They need to organize, process, and express their feelings in a healthy way,” she wrote. “And society tells us we should punish them for this. Send them to their room, put them in timeout, spank them.”

Actions like these, Muhl wrote, teach kids to hide their emotions rather than expressing themselves. This follows them into their teenage years, a time when she says parents want their child to open up to them, but he or she has already been wired not to. “Give your child permission to feel. Let them know their feelings are valid and that you care, no matter how small. Make sure they know that they are heard,” she wrote.

Thousands of commenters weighed in, including some who agreed with Muhl’s point of view. But others felt the complete opposite.

“Telling them not to whine or throw tantrums is not us telling them not to show emotion…the reason I punish the behaviors is because I’m trying to teach them how to appropriately show their emotions and throwing a screaming tantrum and throwing a toy or some other violent act or response is not [an] appropriate reaction of showing your emotions,” one commenter said.

Another chimed in: "I tried this gentle parenting thing and all it resulted in was my kids misbehaving, being disrespectful, and thinking they were the boss. Now, I don’t agree with some things...I don’t agree with all. Time out is a perfectly acceptable way to teach a child they’ve done wrong."

Laura Muhl kids
Credit: Laura Muhl

While Muhl knows this is a sensitive subject for many parents, she was surprised by some of the aggressive comments. She points out many misunderstood her because she wasn't advocating for never disciplining children. Instead, she thinks kids can be disciplined in different ways that don't involve punishing, silencing, and leaving them "to pick up the pieces by themselves."

It's important, she says, for parents to help children calm down during meltdowns by sitting with them, holding or hugging them, or reading them a book. She believes in using a method "that supports emotional development" and teaches skills children can use whenever they are confronted with a problem in the future.