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Doctor who coined parenting term 'time out' dies at 97

Psychologist Arthur Staats gave frustrated parents a break from misbehaving children with his disciplinary tool.
/ Source: TODAY

Parents across the country have psychologist Arthur Staats to thank for giving their kids a 'time out'.

The doctor, who coined the phrase in the late 1950s, died on April 26 at his home in Oahu, Hawaii. He was 97.

Arthur Staats died on April 26 at age 97.
Arthur Staats died on April 26 at age 97.Family Handout Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Staats proved through experimentation that removing children from situations of misbehavior was more effective than other types of discipline. Staats believed that regardless of what prompted a child's unwanted behavior, giving them a break from the situation — and their parents — created a learned response. He recommended "time out" be applied consistently, last five to 15 minutes, and end when the child stops the unwanted behavior.

To test his theories, Staats used his children, Peter and Jennifer.

“My sister and I were trained with the timeout procedure invented by my father in the late 1950s,” Dr. Peter Staats told Johns Hopkins Magazine in 2020.

The late psychologist was born in Greenburgh, New York on January 17, 1924, and his father died when he was just a baby.

At 17, Staats dropped out of high school and volunteered for the U.S. Navy, where he served on the U.S.S. Nevada during the D-Day invasion in World War II.

Under the GI Bill, he went back to school, and earned his PhD in Psychology at UCLA, where he met his wife, Carolyn Kaiden.

"In recognition of the importance of time-out, Staats was recognized by Child Magazine in 2006 as one of the '20 People who Changed Childhood.' Staats worked as Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, UC-Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin," his obituary read.

In 1966, Staats moved to Oahu, Hawaii to become a professor of psychology at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The family shared, "When he wasn't driving his car with the tag 'TYM-OUT' he could be found gathered with friends or playing a round of golf."

Staats is survived by his wife of 68 years, Carolyn, two children — both doctors — and five grandchildren.