Updated: Apr 26
Have you ever heard of "time in"?
If you google the term "time-in", you will likely see it used as an alternative to time out.
Time-In vs Time-Out
Instead of the child sitting by him/herself as a punishment like what is done during a time-out, he/she would sit with a parent/adult to help him through his feelings. I think this version of a time-in is great. It is a way to reset, to calm down, to model appropriate ways to calm down, to be sensitive to the child's feelings, to move on without a huge to-do. It can stop the unwanted behavior in the moment.
Similar to a time-out, time-in can be a negative consequence if the child is removed from an activity or social situation he wants to be a part of. It is appropriate to use both time-outs and time-ins as they are described, depending on the situation. Okay, great. Now that we got that out of the way...
Will Time-In or Time-Out Teach Child To Stop Unwanted Behavior?
Neither "time out" nor "time in", in the way they are defined above, will teach your child to stop the unwanted behavior for the long term.
Yes, there is space for negative consequences in certain situations. However, when thinking about changing your child's behavior, your primary focus should be on positive consequences. So how do you do that if your child is doing an unwanted behavior?
How To Teach Child to Change Behavior
Ok, here is where I see things different. Time-in, in my world, is something that happens separate from the unwanted behavior, when things are calm, throughout daily life, over and over. It isn't one specific event when the unwanted behavior occurs. It is actually the opposite. It is what occurs when a WANTed behavior takes place. Or at a time when the unwanted behavior doesn't present itself (ie for a kiddo who has a hard time sharing, this could be when the child is not with other kids).
Time-in (my definition) teaches your child not only the behavior that we don't want him to do (hit when he is frustrated) but ALSO the behavior we DO want him to do (snuggle with a lovey, walk away, ask for help solving the problem)!
Right, so how do you do this? One option...
1 - Talk with your child about appropriate way to handle the big emotion
2 - Ask your kiddo to come up with strategies he can use in these situations
3 - Notice when your child actually uses these strategies
4 - Consistently praise (I'm talking big praise!!) your child for using the alternative strategies.
5️ - Practice! This will require practice for you too. Our minds pay more attention to negative situations than positive ones. Train your brain to notice when your kiddo is doing what you DO want him to do and then take the next step to make a big deal about it.
Key take away
We must not only teach what we don't want our child to do, BUT we must also teach what we DO want him or her to do. Otherwise "don't scream at the top of your lungs when you are upset at your brother may turn into "don't hit when you are upset with your brother."
Katie Ramirez, RN, BSN, CLC
Born Happy, Owner and Coach
Katie Ramirez is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Coach for parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. She has spent more than a decade serving patients at major university hospitals such as Vanderbilt University and Penn State University Medical Centers. Katie now spends her time supporting and empowering parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers as founder and coach for Born Happy.
Katie is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Roberto (age 7), and Veronica (age 5). She has a passion for health, wellness, and happy children, and believes that, with the necessary knowledge and support, all parents can live happy.