When it comes to dealing with a child’s bad behavior, the time-out is one of the most tried and true tools in a parent’s kit. The prevailing wisdom is that it gives kids a few minutes to cool off, reflect about what they have done, and realize that their actions have consequences. However, there are lessons a time-out doesn’t teach, like regulating your emotions, cooperating with your parents, or deescalating. Some parents are doing the exact opposite of the time-out and using a technique known as the time-in.
A time-in is when you sit your child down calmly to comfort them and talk about the bad behavior. As opposed to a punishment, the time-in lets you find out what pushed your child to a certain behavior and create a cooperative plan to stop it from happening again. Most negative behavior doesn’t come from nowhere, so a time-in can help a parent understand what is going through their child’s mind. It also helps children reconcile and further examine their negative emotions.
Many kids, when left to their own devices during time-out time, will blame others as opposed to really thinking about what they have done. Kids can have trouble sorting out their actions and their emotions. A time-in lets you, the parent, take control and say “Emotion X is okay, action X is not” and from there move the conversation to “What is a more productive way to deal with emotion X?”
Another problem with the time-out is that it loses its effectiveness after a certain age. Are you really going to give your teenager a time-out? Probably not. By getting into the habit of talking through problems now, you establish a lifelong habit of talking through your child’s inappropriate behaviors.
Many parents are skeptical of the time-in because they don’t want to feel they are rewarding a bad behavior. The first thing to remember is that a time-in is not a punishment, but it’s not a reward either. It’s simply a different, more proactive tool for dealing with problem behavior. Try it out – you may be surprised at the results.