Lock up your naughty kids - expert

Locking up kids in their rooms is OK, says psychologist Nigel Latta, below.
Locking up kids in their rooms is OK, says psychologist Nigel Latta, below.

TV psychologist Nigel Latta is promoting a no-nonsense "time-out" for naughty kids – locking them in their bedrooms until they behave.

But his advice has been attacked by child safety campaigners including anti-smacking bill architect Sue Bradford who criticised it as "outrageous".

Latta, host of The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show, made the suggestion when hosting a live chat on a Sydney newspaper website earlier this month while on a promotional tour of Australia for his TV series' debut.

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He was providing parental advice on the Daily Telegraph site.

One reader asked Latta for help on how to handle kids who "keep begging for more and more and wind you down all the time till u [sic] say yes and give in".

Latta responded: "Tell them that you're having a sit down and a wee rest and that the smart thing for them to do would be to go find something quiet to do.

"If they dont [sic] listen then pick them up, put them in their rooms, and close the door ... bolting it with the lock you've just installed.

"Then go sit down, have a cup of tea, reflect on the general serenity of the moment, soak up the vibe, and then when you're good and ready go let them out. Repeat as many times as needed."

Sunday News approached Latta earlier this week about his comments.

"It is an outline on how you could use time out," said the clinical psychologist, who also hosted hit TV series Beyond The Darklands, delving into the backgrounds of some of New Zealand's worst criminals.

"If you don't [use time out], then what happens is that you sit down and get wound up," Latta said.

"It doesn't mean that you leave them in there [their rooms] forever – but you put the bolt on the door so they can't keep running in and out and everyone calms down."

But former Green MP Bradford, whose anti-smacking bill afforded children the same legal protection from assault as adults, warned such actions could have "a lifelong impact" on the locked-up kids.

"Locking children up when you are angry, frustrated or just sad could really damage the children psychologically and cause all sorts of problems later," Bradford said.

"There have been horror stories in the past from children being locked in small spaces and left as punishment. It is a form of cruelty and mental violence." Whangarei-based barrister Michael Gardam, convener of the New Zealand Law Society's youth justice committee, said he was "taken aback" by Latta's advice.

"I think you have to be careful how you handle [it]. Obviously there are issues about the amount of force used," Gardam said. "It is difficult to see how it could be done without some form of force, potentially anyway. I would think you would have to be fairly careful. Obviously it has the potential to turn to custard, that sort of approach.

"I don't know if it is good advice, personally speaking." Barnardos' northern regional manager Glenys Knowles said: "We would encourage parents to pick up the phone, grab hold of some resources and talk to some other parents. But bolts on doors ... It is not something that Barnardos would advocate. If parents are struggling they should ask for help."

Latta, Police Commissioner Howard Broad, and Ministry of Social Development chief Peter Hughes reviewed anti-smacking legislation. Latta said it made no difference to how police and social workers did their jobs.

Sunday News