Time In or Time Out

Image of an angry toddler

Spending ‘Time-In’ With Your Child

Many parents have shared stories of having to stand by their child’s bedroom door to ensure that their child stays in a time-out or listen to their child’s increasing screams when they were supposed to be calming down. In a time-out, the upset child is removed from the situation for a specific amount of time to calm down and think about what they have done wrong. Parents are told not to interact with their child until the time-out is over.

We now know that the use of fear and isolation when children are upset is not good for them. In fact, isolating a child can make them feel more stressed. We also know that children need to learn how to manage their behaviour when they have strong feelings. Children learn these skills from their parents and they need lots of practice.

With all the information about early brain development and the importance of positive relationships in the early years, it makes sense that children do better in a safe, engaging and nurturing environment. This is particularly true when they are upset or have lost control of their feelings. One way to help little ones cope with big emotions is through a time-in.

In a time-in, the child is invited to sit with a parent for comfort. The parent encourages the child to express her feelings. Once the child has calmed down, the parent helps the child understand why the behaviour is not acceptable and learn positive ways to handle the situation.

Other important considerations when children are acting out is to make sure a child’s physical and emotional needs are met. Is the child hungry, tired, overstimulated or bored? Create a comforting space in the home where the child or parent can go to calm down. Redirect the child to a more appropriate activity. Approach the child by getting down at their level to speak with them. The parent’s response should be based on the child’s age and temperament.

During time-ins, children learn to identify their feelings and manage their emotions. They feel their needs are considered. Power struggles are avoided and use of force is prevented. With a time-in, the parent teaches their child important skills they will use for the rest of their life. And just as important, parents build a relationship with their child that is defined by trust, respect, and confidence. So next time your child acts out, try spending “time-in” with your child.

For more information:
Frequently Asked Questions about Time-Outs