Parenting Child Psychology and Behaviour

Time-in Vs. Time-Out: What is the best discipline technique for your child?

Shikha Batra
3 to 7 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Sep 16, 2021

Time in Vs Time Out What is the best discipline technique for your child
Reviewed by Expert panel

“Sending children away to get control of their anger perpetuates the feeling of ‘badness’ inside them. Chances are they were already feeling not very good about themselves before the outburst and the isolation just serves to confirm in their own minds that they were right.”

-Otto Weninger, Ph.D.

Are you a parent who has been witnessing a lot of disruptive behaviour from your child?

Have you been wondering whether to use time-in or time-out as a disciplinary method?

Well, you are not alone in this as just like you many other parents are facing this issue and are confused about which method to adopt out of the two as far as disciplining their child is concerned.

Many research studies have shown that punishment can be an ineffective way of discipling a child. Traditional methods such as taking away privileges, giving ultimatums, lecturing, spanking or time-outs forces a child to comply with the rules in order to avoid punishment. But in the absence of the punishment, children again behave the way they wish to so they are less likely to adopt parents’ values. 

Difference between a time-out and time-out:

Time-ins are inclusionary time-outs wherein the parent removes the child from a situation to stop their misbehaviour and stays with the child until he is calm.  The attention that the parent gives to their child when they need them the most, is the most important aspect of time-in whereas  removal of their attention in a similar situation is the most important part of any time-out.

Reasons why Time-outs should be replaced with time-ins:

  1. Giving a time-out to a child which involves a parent separating from the child, who is struggling the most with many emotions already can be overwhelming for the child to deal with. Whereas in the time-in method the parent child tries to calm down their child with their calming presence and offer support.

  2. During time-out  the parent is supposed to withhold any love and affection for the child and ignore their cries. When  children are disconnected from their parents who are the most important adults as punishment, this further impedes their brain’s ability to regulate emotions. The child gets the impression that feeling out of control or upset will lead to isolation, which creates further distress in them. On the contrary, time-ins do not break or damage the attachment bond that they share with each other. 

  3. It is a harsh technique which might make the child have feelings of rejection, abandonment and make them feel frightened and leave them in confusion. Whereas, in time-ins the child is removed from the situation and taken to a secluded place and the caregiver stays with the child and gives them the importance they want. So in time-ins connection between the child and the parent is used to promote cooperation. 

The way time-ins are executed:

Unlike time-outs, time-ins are not punishment but a strategy to help the child to deal with difficult emotions. The parent escorts the child who is having a meltdown or is getting aggressive to help him calm down. The efforts are made by the parent to use this as an opportunity to coach the child and not lecture him. They try their best to empathise with the child and state what went wrong when that episode happened.

 For instance:

“You threw away your books because you were really angry and frustrated.”

“You yelled at your brother as he was nagging to play with you.” 

Empathy is needed by the child for them to let all of their feelings out and not suppress them. Once they have unloaded themselves completely off all the emotions that are bothering them, they are more likely to understand parent’s discipline. These moments can be utilized to help the child in solving the problem together in a better way by helping them rethink an appropriate response to the similar situation with a cool mind. In other words they are taught to express their emotions appropriately when they are having a rough time.

For instance:

“The next time you feel really angry and perturbed because of the pressure of studies, what can you do?”

“If your brother won’t give you space, what can you say?

Affirm the choices and offer your own support.

Basic needs such as hunger, connection, fatigue, and overstimuation could be some of the reasons for the children struggling to behave and to show disruptive behaviour. Isolating a child who needs parental support when in distress can add on to their pressure by making them feel alienated and can negatively affect their mental health. Researchers fear that timeouts may communicate to the child, “I am not there for you when you are struggling the most”, whereas time-ins communicate to the child, “You are my child, you are loved and you are safe, this is not about you or us, it is all about that particular episode of aggression wherein you behaviour was not appropriate and I am there for you to support you in rough times like that.”

Which approach do you find more effective for disciplining your child and how has it worked for you? Please share your experience and add value to this blog with your valuable suggestions.

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