Time In vs. Time Out

Discipline is a struggle for every parent. Not only are there many styles of disciplining, but one method doesn’t always work for two children. One of the newest up and coming terms thrown around is ‘time in.’ This is touted as the best form of discipline over time outs and also known as positive parenting. Learn more about both time outs and time ins to see if one of these methods may work for your family.

time out chair

The Time Out

Time outs have been used for decades, making it one of the most well-known discipline options. Those who use time-ins will call this a form of punishment. In the simplest form, a time out means

  • Placing your child in a specific location like a chair, the stairs, or corner of a room.
  • Setting a time limit for how long the child must stay there.
  • Ignoring any talk, cries, or other actions of your child.
  • Placing your child back in the spot if he leaves until he has met the necessary time.

Some parents change the components of the time out to meet their family needs. There may, for example, not be a specific location. Other parents may allow their children to speak if it is addressing the situation at hand. If you are using a time out, you want to ensure to

  • State in simple terms why the child is put there
  • Let the child know how long he needs to sit there.
  • Re-state why there was a time-out and ask for an apology.
  • Leave the issue alone unless it reoccurs.

Many parents time it based on the child’s age. This means, for example, if your child is five he gets a five minute time out. A seven-year-old gets seven minutes, etc. Younger children may want a visual timer that allows them to see the progress made. Hour glasses or kitchen timers work well for this purpose.

If you are using time outs, there are signs that it is not working. If you notice any of these, you will want to try another form of discipline with your child. The main symptoms to look for include

  • Your child constantly asking how much time is left
  • You place your child into a time out on a daily basis or for every issue
  • Your child laughs or runs away if you mention a time out
  • Your child repeats the same issues
  • You find yourself angrier

When these issues are not occurring, then the time out is likely working for your family. If you are looking for other methods though, you may consider time-ins.

The Time-In

A time-in is actually rather similar to a time out. The main difference is that you at no point are ignoring your child. This is why it is called a positive parenting technique – you continue to hear and meet your child’s needs. When faced with a time-in, a parent

  • Brings their child to a quiet and comfortable spot.
  • States why the child is there.
  • Continues to discuss the issue and find the root of the cause.
  • Restate what the issue was.
  • State other techniques the child can use to properly problem solve.

When faced with a time-in, there are different tactics that can be used dependent on your child’s temperament. Along with a discussion with the parent, many children just need a quiet place to calm down and get away from overstimulation. This may look like

  • A corner with a blanket on the floor, books, and puzzles: Your child can then go read or do quiet activities until she has calmed down. Once calm, you can discuss the situation to find out why it occurred.
  • A calm down jar: This is an easy DIY project that uses water, glue, glitter, and other objects. You can make it with your child. When he needs to calm down, you simply shake the jar and have him look at the falling glitter and objects. You may want him to take deep breathes as well. The child should be calm after one to two rounds of this.
  • Meditation: Believe it or not, even young children can practice meditation. This focuses on deep breathing exercises. You may need a focus object such as a picture for him to look at while breathing. Younger children will need the parent to do the activity and count the deep breathes with them. This helps both of you calm down.

If time-ins are not working, you will notice many of the same symptoms of the time-outs. Your child will

  • Run when you suggest one
  • Refuse to speak with you
  • Continue the same poor behavior
  • Continue to increase your frustration and anger levels

The time-ins are considered positive parenting, however, because you are meeting your child’s needs through conversation rather than ignoring him. It therefore is allowing your child to be heard and gets rid of the power struggle rather than fueling it.

Other benefits of the time-in include

  • Encouraging conversation: When your child feels heard, he is more likely to discuss his feelings with you rather than hide them. This means that there is more conversation and shared information between you and your child.
  • Processing emotions: The conversations allow your child the necessary time to process emotions. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the emotions, he talks through them and can see a cause and effect. This is not generally achieved through time-outs.
  • Positive Self-Thought: Most children put into a time out feel embarrassed and disgraced. A time-in, instead, creates a positive atmosphere for your child. He ends the time-in feeling good about himself because he understands and works through his emotions.

Time Out and Time In

There is an alternative to choosing either a time out or time in. You can create a combination of the two. This allows you to get the benefit of both discipline forms. As an example, your family may:

  • Start with a time out that occurs in a calm down place. During this time, you do not speak to your child and he cannot move until he has quieted himself.
  • Join your child and discuss the issue, his emotions, and other options for dealing with the situation
  • Reiterate why the action is not allowed and what to do next time.

The above situation combines some solitary moments of a time out with the conversation of a time in. This may work for families who need time to cool down and process emotions alone before a calm discussion can occur.

There are, of course, many discipline techniques outside of a time out or time in. These are two of the more popular methods because there is no hitting, spanking, or physical force involved. If you use a technique different from someone else, remember to be respectful of their situation. You may not believe in time-outs, but it may be what works for another child. Most families probably use a combination of a time out and time in without evening knowing it is occurring. What do you think? Do you prefer a time in or a time out? Or perhaps, you use a completely different method to discipline. No matter what, finding the right discipline method is always tricky.


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