Let's Clear Up This Thing About Time Outs


Time outs are for parents; Time Ins are for children.

Because it is never a good idea to handle any discipline issue while angry. Time out gives the parent a chance to calm down and then when the child is also calm and maybe even distracted by something else, the teaching can happen. Techniques for parents to calm themselves are clearly presented in Anger Issues, Parents and Children.


time outTherefore, here we will address Time in for children. Why that expression? Because time outs have often been seen as a punishment for the child. This practice tells the child he or she is bad and should act better. Modern understanding of brain development tells us that children are doing the best they can with the brain and social development they have or they are attempting to express emotions they are dealing with. Another reason to create space for the child to calm down without a sense of being punished is to make an opportunity for a teachable moment.

So what is Time In? Time in a safe a secure place that contains favorite things that are comforting and calming for the child. The child knows from the parent's reaction that something is up, and when the parent suggests he goes to his comfort place, which may have a favorite comforting doll or huggy, which Jan Nelsen, and fellow authors, suggests in Positive Parenting A-Z it feels different to them. time out imageWhen they are calmed down and enjoying whatever they have found, they are ready to understand about the incident. That of course, depending on their age, does not mean they will never do the same thing again. Once again, Jane Nelsen is clear in her many books that children need repetition many times and maturing brains to get used to what not to do. And that's why Judy Arnall's book, Parenting with Patience was written. All this is the structure and warmth concept. See Introductory Chapter here.

Here is a description of a time in place for children from Positive Discipline, A-Z: "It is important to get children involved in creating a space that will help them feel better. It may include soft cushions, music, stuffed animals, and books to read. Then let them name their space something else besides time out (since it is difficult to overcome the negative connotations about time out). Some children call it their "cooling off" spot, or their "feel good" place.  

Here is how to use this space. When your child experiences a behavior challenge, ask "Would it help you to go to your feel good place?" If the child is too upset, and says, "No," the next question is, "Would you like for me to go with you?" (And why not. You probably need some time out just as much as your child. (In fact it might be a good idea for you to be the one to take some time out first.) If your child still says, "No," you can say, "Okay, I think I'll go calm down. Then you go to your positive time our area. What a great model for children. Some children enjoy having a cuddly stuffed lamb with a timer in its belly so they can take it to their timeout place with them. (The TimeIn Lamb is available at www.positivediscipline.com) When they're upset, they can decide how much time they think it might take for them to feel better and set the timer (or get help to set it.) This lamb can also be used for time for -- time for cleanup, time for leaving the park, time for howework, etc. as a fun way for chldren to feel some sense of control over how much time they'll spend at an activity. Also you can ask your child if you can borrow the TimeIn Lamb when you need some time to fell better. (Of course any easy-to-use timer which the child can decorate, or a smart phone timer can work.) 


The benefits that come from this calming down approach before any discipline is mainly for the parent to feel successful, less out of control, and effective in raising children that will learn the life skills of self-management and problem solving.  

A wonderful example of how a scenario using all three steps can be found demonstrated in the MP3 webinar of Judy Arnall.


The three steps are:



1. Both parent and child calm down in their time outs and time ins.




2. They come back together and the parent tries to understand the emotions of the child and also explains the structure issue the parent wants. 





3. Finally they are both ready and able to problem solve together for the next time the issue arises.


JudyArnall Book

A note on tantrums  from Joan Durrant, Ph.D.

Parents sometimes get angry when their children have tantrums, either because they are embarrassed or because they think they must control their children’s behavior.angry boy

Remember that your relationship with your child is much more important than what other people think. When your child has a tantrum in a public place, focus your thoughts on your long-term goals and on providing warmth and structure to your child. Try hard not to worry about what other people think.

Also, remember that trying to control a tantrum is like trying to control a storm. You can’t. Children have tantrums because they don’t understand why we are saying “no” and because they don’t know how to handle frustration. Tantrums are your child’s way of telling you that he is very, very frustrated. If you yell at him or hit him at such a time, he will only feel more frustrated. He will also feel frightened and misunderstood.

The best thing to do is to wait it out. Stay close so that your child feels safe while the storm overtakes him. Sometimes, holding your child gently can help to calm him.

When the tantrum is over, sit with your child and talk about what happened. Use the opportunity to teach him what feelings are, how strong they can be, and what their names are. You can also explain why you said “no” and that you understand why he was frustrated. Tell him what you do to calm yourself when you’re very frustrated. And be sure to tell him that you love him, whether he’s happy, sad or mad. Then move on. 


Tips for helping your child with anger.  (From Parenting With Patience, Judy Arnall)

  1. Children need to learn to use words also. Help them own the feeling, by saying things like, "I see you are feeling angry." This helps them own their feeling instead of their blaming others with,"You make me angry." angrylatinoboy
  2.  Accept the feeling, "We all get angry at times." "It's okay to cry or be angry."
  3. Recommend an action. Children are active and physical. Here are physical tips for children to safely release their anger:
  4. Expelling breath helps a lot like hissing, blowing into a tube like an empty paper towel roll, loud panting, saying, Grrrrr.
  5. Give some Playdough* they can pound into. None of this will increase their anger. Or, let them draw something, or shape the Playdough* into something. Let them dance in their safe space. Put on their favorite music to help this. Or dance with them. 
  6. Offer to get a glass of water, give a little space by excusing yourself to go to the bathroom. 
  7. image001At times, children want to be held, but other times they don't. Respect their desire.
  8. After the time in for them and time out for you, get back together and allow them to share what's going on, validate, and share your own feelings. Slowly move to mutual problem solving.    Arnall's book has lots more on this and tantrums.




Our Mission

The MISSION of the Action Team to End Hitting Children is to gather many people to do small jobs for the purpose of diminishing and finally ending the hitting of children. By "htiting" we mean to include beating, spanking, slapping, shaking, popping, and any other form of physical or emotional punishment that demeans the child and creates emotional, mental, and physical harm. Our strategy is to use many people to do small amounts of work that create momentum to make a difference. 

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