Forget Time-Out, Time-In Is the New Discipline Strategy to Try
If you’re a parent, chances are, you’ve sent at least one kid to a “time-out” at some point or another in their young lives as a way of disciplining them for an undesirable action or behavior. I know that I definitely have. In my 10+ years parenting four kids who at one point were all six and under, I have utilized the classic “time-out” principle many times.
Honestly, the time-out was sometimes more for me than for my kids, as once in a while I just reached the point where I didn’t do what to do with them and knew I would just lose my patience on them if they remained in my sight. (A phenomenon that is just as applicable to toddlers as it is to almost-teens, ugh.)
But some experts are now advising that we rethink the traditional “time-out” and rebrand it as a “time-in.” Why? Well, because they say so, that’s why. Kidding, there’s a perfectly good explanation.
As an article in Parents explained, the truth is, “time-outs” aren’t really the classic go-to parenting mode of discipline that we think; they only came onto the scene just before the 1970s as more parents and doctors tried to get away from the mainstream method of discipline, which basically boiled down to physical punishment. (Raise your hand if the phrase “Dad’s belt” means anything to you …)
The philosophy behind a time-out was simple: if you’re behaving, you’re allowed to participate in the family life. If you’re not and you’re doing something naughty, you will not have the privilege of being a part of the gang by stopping anything else fun you could be doing and instead, reflect on the bad behavior and how you can change it.
The only problem? Most kids don’t do that.
I mean think about it–either the kid is glad to have a chance to go to their room and escape, or they’re just sitting there thinking how unfair life is, or maybe they’re too young to even really understand what’s going on all together, so they’re just on to the next activity. As a discipline strategy and more importantly, as a behavior modification strategy–i.e., a way to get your kid to change the behavior you’re trying to change — time-outs just aren’t super effective. Of course, they’re better than spanking (which, just as a refresher, has been found, without a doubt, not to help discipline kids in any way, can actually cause long-term damage, and is adamantly advised against by the American Academy of Pediatrics), but still, it appears we could be using all that “time out” in a better way.
Here’s how: swap a “time-out” with a “time-in.” And what exactly is a “time-in?”
Well, according to Parents, it’s basically being intentional about taking time away to check in with your child. Instead of scooting your misbehaving little one off to their room while you continue to chop vegetables angrily in the kitchen, a “time-in” would look like both of you excusing yourself to a more secluded or quieter part of your living quarters to have some “time-in” together. Instead of shutting your kid in a room alone to let them try to sort through some big feelings and emotions by themselves without the resources or tools to really do that yet, you – as the caregiver – would guide them through the emotions and feelings they are having and work through the behavior. For instance, you could say something like, “It looks like you are angry about this,” encouraging the child to learn to name, and thus, manage their emotions.
I’m almost embarrassed writing this because I can see how this makes much more sense, but let’s face it: it’s way easier to just send my kid to their room than have to deal with their emotions, ugh. #lazyparent.
But there’s hope, even for the laziest among us: it’s also advised that parents can announce that they are going to take a “time-off” in the midst of tense moments, teaching their kids that it’s OK to know when you need to take a break–and then take the break. The important part is not forgetting to come back together at the end of a time-in or time-off and discuss any behavior that was not acceptable, and come to a solution about next time together.