Why You Shouldn't Use the Thinking Corner Technique with Children

The thinking corner is a technique widely used by families and schools. It aims to punish the child so that they calm down on their own.
Why You Shouldn't Use the Thinking Corner Technique with Children
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 19 April, 2023

The thinking corner is a widespread practice that parents tend to use a lot because it’s easy for them. In this way, they get the child off their back so that they can relax and calm down on their own. The adult, on the other hand, looks the other way. However, that’s not the right way of going about it. In fact, to use it properly, the child should never be left alone with their thoughts. On the contrary, the child should always be guided through his emotions.

The thinking corner is considered a behavior modification strategy that’s not only used in families but also in schools. It consists of the child being excluded from the activity or the moment and sitting in a chair or standing in a corner. The idea is that the child will be to reflect on their own and as if by magic, their behavior will change.

Obviously, this method doesn’t work. Moreover, for the child, it’s just another punishment imposed on them by the adult and it doesn’t help them to think about what’s really going on. The thinking corner has nothing to do with positive parenting, where respect and empathy should form the main basis.

Negative consequences of using the thinking corner

The thinking corner isn’t a good educational strategy. In fact, it shouldn’t be used, especially not to leave the child alone with their thoughts. In doing so, the child isn’t able to understand very well what to think about or how they should change their behavior. In addition, it also contains negative consequences that you should keep in mind.

A child sitting in a chair facing a wall.
When a child’s labeled for their bad behavior, their behaviors will increasingly resemble that distorted reality.

The child convinces themself that they’re bad

The child thinks that they’re bad, that what they’ve done is wrong, that they’re not worthy of being loved, and that this is why they’re exiled from the situation. Worst of all, if they’re told they’re bad or really believe it, they’ll put a label on themself that will be very difficult to remove later.

They don’t learn to control their emotions

When they’re sent to the thinking corner, at no time are they taught to identify or name their emotions. Nor do they learn how emotions are meant to tell them that something’s wrong and that it’s important to look for solutions to get better. Young children don’t know how to solve these situations by themselves, so it’s essential to guide them in the search for solutions for a better emotional balance.

Feels emotionally abandoned

When a child sits in the thinking chair, they feel that they’re not important and that their emotions shouldn’t exist. This makes them feel emotionally abandoned, something that will seriously affect their self-esteem, and they think it would even be better to stop feeling altogether.

Next time, they’ll repress their emotions

If the child feels isolated, next time, they may repress their emotions. They’ll think that the more intense or less pleasant emotions are unacceptable and not worthy of respect or love. Therefore, they’ll learn to separate themself from what they feel and will think that they’re not worthy of anyone’s love. In fact, the explosions of anger will become greater and greater. For this reason, an understanding attitude is fundamental for raising children.

A child standing in a corner.
Implementing the thinking corner, using bad manners, or losing patience aren’t the best strategies for raising children.

What to do when faced with bad behavior

Of course, bad behavior can’t be tolerated, so there’s no need to know what to do about it. Remember that it’s essential to educate calmly and with empathy, understanding, respect, and unconditional love. Limits are necessary, but always from love. To do this, keep the following in mind:

  • Take a deep breath and regain calm. If necessary, count to 10 or 100 while taking breaths. Then, look for that calmness that resides within you.
  • Emotional support. At this time, your child needs you to accompany them emotionally. It’s your duty to teach them good emotional management, especially when the child feels more vulnerable. Allow them to express themselves while you give them all your love.
  • Offer your support and look for solutions together. It’s important that you’re always available to solve problems, but first, listen to what they have to say and respect their thoughts.

Show your unconditional love

Remember that when a child’s in the middle of a tantrum, it’s important to keep them safe both physically and emotionally. Don’t allow them to fear abandonment and help them stay calm through your attention and unconditional love. Make them understand that they’ll always be safe by your side, at all levels.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bilbao, A. (2015) El cerebro del niño explicado a los padres. Editorial: Plataforma Actual

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.