Why Time-Out Doesn't Work for All Kids and Other Secrets From Temperament-Based Parenting (page 3)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Reducing child behavior problems

In general, there are at least two types of behavior problems that are reduced by temperament-based parenting strategies.

Type l Problem:
Repetitive behaviors that are likely to frustrate a parent because they occur repeatedly. An example of such behavior is the child who consistently fails to bring home the necessary materials to complete a homework assignment. If parental responses to such behaviors are counterproductive (and they usually are), conflict between the parent and child escalates over time. Consequently, a power struggle ensues leaving a parent feeling inadequate. In turn, the child loses confidence in the parent’s ability to help him or her behave in a socially acceptable manner.
Temperament-based strategy: Behavior contracts are recommended for reducing repetitive behaviors. When implemented correctly, behavior contracts reduce the problem behavior, reestablish the parent’s appropriately authoritative role, and improve the parent/child relationship.

Type 2 Problem:
Isolated, rather than repetitive, behavior problems require a different approach. An example might be a child who uncharacteristically hits a sibling or who talks disrespectfully to his/her parent.
Temperament-based strategy: Parents are encouraged to develop a discipline plan for their family that is communicated and negotiated with their children. The plan should include a signal or a single verbal reminder as a first step. Should compliance not occur, a loss of a privilege is then recommended. Misbehavior which is still not curtailed requires a more serious punishment that lets the child know that such infractions are not tolerated within the family.

Enhancing child development

The parent/child relationship has a pivotal influence on a child’s emotional development and the tenor of a family’s collective life. Thus, temperament-based parenting 5 involves more than reducing child behavior problems. It also involves expressing warmth so that a child knows that he or she is cherished and appreciated for his or her uniqueness. As children grow older, their relationship with their parents needs to evolve to match their expanding developmental needs.4 Effective parents support their children’s adaptive functioning by fostering their independence, communication, and negotiation skills.

About the Author

Sandee McClowry, PhD, RN, FAAN is a Professor in the Division of Nursing, Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. She is the author of Your Child’s Unique Temperament: Insights and Strategies for Responsive Parenting. (2003) Research Press.


1. Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J.E.(1998). Temperament. In W. Damon (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (5th ed., pp. 105-174). New York: Wiley

2. McClowry, S. G. (1995) The development of the School-Age Temperament Inventory. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 41:271-285

3. Chess, S. & Thomas, A. (1999) Goodness of fit: Clinical applications from infancy through adult life. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel

4. Collins, W. A., Matsen, S. D., & Susman-Stillman, A. (2002) Parenting during middle childhood. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Children and parenting (pp. 73-102). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

5. McClowry, S.G. (2003) Your Child's Unique Temperament: Insights and Strategies for Responsive Parenting. Research Press

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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