We’ve all heard of time outs, right? The naughty step? It’s the super nannies’ (who often have no children of their own and so can’t comprehend the emotional aspect that comes with disciplining a child) control tool of choice.

But it’s not one I myself like. Seeing, or worse, putting my child in distress tightens my chest. It raises my blood pressure, and it ruins my mood. And sure, it may work, but what works isn’t necessarily always the best thing to do. If you have a leg infection, amputating the leg will get rid of the infection, but was it the right action to take?

I’m no saint, however, and dealing with a two year old has it’s challenges. I am not the most patient person to ever walk the planet, and sometimes… heaven knows, sometimes… . And I have taken my little girl and put her in the bathroom and shut the door. And I’ve listened to her screaming for 30 seconds, or a minute. And I have asked her if she’s willing to listen, to cooperate, to obey ‘now’ as a result of her estrangement from me, however brief, and I have felt like a horrible, horrible person as a result.

So, I’ve been searching for alternatives. Alternatives that leave us with a result, but don’t leave either of us with emotional baggage. I’ve discovered something called Time-In.

JB Weinhold explains Time-In as follows:

Discipline should be designed to help children develop internal controls over their impulses and include lots of reinforcement for positive, pro-social behavior. Misbehavior should provide consequences that allow the child to have more adult contact.

Time-in provides this contact better than time-out, which actually isolates the child more. Time-in discipline requires the child to be in close proximity for a certain period of time, either being held, sitting nearby or talking with adults. Adult-child interactions should include hugs, holding, touch, and eye-to-eye talking to emphasize the importance of connection and social relationships. Shaming, blaming and punitive discipline measures should be avoided at all costs.

(Please note, I have not spent any time researching the Weinhold’s parenting philosophy, and as such am only referencing this section!)

alternative to time outI remember watching an episode of Supernanny where the child was ‘acting out’ and being ‘naughty’ and the ‘naughty chair’ principle was brought into play. Over the course of the day, the child was put on the naughty chair a few times, and once calm, the mother was ‘allowed’ to focus in on him and his behaviour improved over a course of days. The time-out principle seems to have worked. But, having spent some time reading what Janae Weinhold has written on Time-IN, I’m beginning to doubt that the good behaviour had much to do with the naughty chair, but rather with the fact that after each naughty chair session, the mother spent some time focusing IN on her son (by reading, drawing and playing with him). Isn’t it perhaps the Time-IN that the boy was responding to?

Quoting from Weinhold again:

When children show signs of emotional dysregulation, they really need the help of caring adults to calm and quiet themselves. Common symptoms of emotional upset in young children include hitting, crying, throwing, withdrawing, bullying and oppositional behaviors. The most important thing to remember in these situations is that emotionally upset children have some problem that they are not able to resolve within themselves. They need adults to both help them identify the problem and to help them fix it. In this context, the idea of ‘discipline’ is not a useful or helpful place from which to begin. A more effective approach begins with an attitude of ‘what does this child need and how can I help meet this need?’

Is there an alternative to time out?

What follows this paragraph is an incredibly useful chart of behaviours and how to deal with them. I’ve printed it out to keep nearby for when I need reminding and we’re learning to implement it.  And I’m so much happier with this. Yes, sometimes it means I have to put down my plate of food and sit with my daughter for two minutes. Sometimes it means I have to stop what I’m doing, get down on my knees and connect with my child. These things take patience, will power, and energy, but it is positive energy and it’s so much quicker, with practice, and so much more peaceful, and carries less guilt, negative feelings or exhaustion from constant nagging and yelling. Time-in is so much less emotionally draining on me.

I’m still learning, I’m still growing, and I’m beginning to suspect that might be the case till the day I die, because as my children grow and change, so the challenges will. The concept of ‘Time-In’ is just so foreign to me, and my way of thinking and ours as a culture that sees parents as ‘the boss’ or ‘in charge’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach?

Want to read more?


Time In As An Alternative To Time Out

  1. Being (just a bit, mind you) older than you I come from the “Old School”, where parents are to be obeyed and when “NO” has been voiced it should be respected and followed immediately if not sooner. However, having also come from an abusive home, I find it difficult to discipline my two year old in the same manner as I would have my now twenty year old, eight-teen years ago. (Being further removed from my own upbringing makes me view many things differently.) I tried “time out” with my eldest and she did just what has been described in your write. What an emotional and traumatic experience, one I can recall vividly still today. There have only been a few occasions where I have put my two year old in his room for time-out in his bed and on those occasions he cried for only a short time, as though he realized the sooner he stopped, the quicker he would be allowed back out. I like the sound of this alternative to time out – time-in. This Ole Dog – hey, who says you can’t teach us new tricks – will be giving it a try the next time an opportunity arises. (Oddly enough, he really is VERY CLOSE TO PERFECT! haha)

  2. This is great Luschka, thanks for sharing. Positive attention on the child makes much more sense to me than a child being sent to the corner. A need for attention is at the root of most bad behaviour isn’t it? Glad I read this before Jesse hit the terrible twos 😉

    1. I think before having children I’d have looked at this as the REASON ‘children today’ are the way they are. I always believed in a good hiding. I really don’t anymore. These days I find the ‘time-in’ a much more effective tool, long term, but GETTING to do it is hard. It’s ‘easier’ to yell, until I’ve yelled, or to send her to the bathroom, or whatever. Until I have. Then it’s horrible and the guilt and sense of failure is more draining that just putting aside what I was doing and focusing in. I hope that makes sense?!

  3. Hmmm. I’m definitely intrigued. I have to say, though, that I don’t think parents being “the boss” is necessarily a bad thing. Our children are going to grow up and become adults in a very short amount of time and one of the things they will need to be able to understand is authority.

    Of course, there is another side to that thought and that is that far too many parents see “being the boss” as synonymous with “being a tyrant”.

    Being a parent is a lot of hard work and I think that the drive to do better, to listen to your instincts and to find solutions that mesh well with who you are and still give your children the example they need to grow up with is what makes you an amazing mother. 😉

    1. Thanks Rebekah. I agree with you – it’s hard work. While I do believe parents are obviously the decision makers etc, I don’t like the connotation of parents being ‘the boss of …’. I don’t want to encourage blind obedience – respect, yes, but not blind obedience. And unfortunately, that means that I have to allow my children to question and test my limits too. Not easy, definitely, and she knows when I’m being serious and there are definite ground rules to it – I’m not one of those people that will let my child rule the roost either… but I don’t think the naughty step or time out is the way to deal with a child who takes it quite traumatically either. Time will tell, I guess!

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