Time in

Becoming a better parent: Time in vs. time out

Our Westview team member, Terry Owens, continues his series, Becoming a Better Parent. In this article, Terry shares important ideas about “Time in vs. time out.” 

Parents have long used time out as the go-to punishment to correct misbehavior. Parents create a safe place to send their children, they tell the child why they must have a time out, they set a length for time out, and then they ignore the child until their time is up. The problem with a time out is it forces a child to regulate his or her own emotions and children are often still learning how to do this on their own. It also can send unintended messages: “If you don’t want to be family, you can go away until you do.” Or, “My life is better when you’re not in it.” Remember, the goal of a time out is to teach a child to behave, but in actual practice, time outs harm relationships more than they improve behavior.

Research tells us that children learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors through connection and relationships. A time in is a better approach to correction that empowers a child to learn to self-regulate while the parent is present.

Here’s how it works. When a child is misbehaving, the parent asks the child to sit and think about what they did. The parent remains in the room and tells the child, “I will be right here when you are ready to talk about what happened. Tell me when you are ready.” When the child is ready, the parent will get down on eye level with the child and quietly talk with them. The goal is to connect with the child, help them to feel safe, and give them a voice.

By using time ins versus time outs, you will build a stronger connection with your child, which will, in time, strengthen your relationship with your child. Remember, that four-year-old will become a fourteen-year-old; if you don’t choose ways to discipline that help you connect and correct your child, they could gradually become more distant and lose connection.

Most parents think that misbehavior is the problem but it’s not. Behavior is the symptom of a need not met. Through connection and correction, you can help your child learn to express their needs in better ways and with clearer language. Time ins will help you address the behavior through connection and empower your child to use good words to express their needs.