This is why time-in is better than time-out
Yes, you can improve your child's behavior without punishing or isolating him.
Most parents use time-outs when their children have a meltdown or exhibit unacceptable behavior. The child is sent to his or her room to stand or sit in the corner for thirty minutes to an hour as punishment.
Though some swear that this is an effective and non-violent method of discipline, child experts believe that it neither helps the child nor corrects behavior. One thing is certain: it does nothing to help bring parent and child closer.
Instead, many experts recommend the "time-in."
What’s the difference?
Though time-out and time-in both aim to teach a child what unacceptable behaviour is, Mia Villavicencio, co-owner and teacher at Little Sandbox Preschool, explains a crucial difference: “Time-out involves having the child go to a place that is apart from interesting activities and other people for a short period of time. Thus, time-out is seen as a punishment because the child is isolated."
Time-in, on the other hand, calls on parents to stay and help their child process his or her feelings. This helps children feel accepted despite their shortcomings and makes calming down easier.
How time-in works
Educators at Little Sandbox Preschool practice time-in followed by logical consequences. A logical consequence happens as a result of a child’s action and is imposed by an adult.
According to the Positive Discipline programme, logical consequences work best when agreed upon in advance and have to be related to the misdeed, respectful, reasonable, and helpful to the child in improving his or her behaviour.
For example: Child A knocks down Child B’s tower of blocks. Teacher talks to Child A and lets him know why what he did was wrong. If Child A admits to knocking down the blocks intentionally, Teacher also asks why he did it.
To acknowledge Child A's feelings, Teacher might say, “I understand that you are also excited to play with the blocks, but right now, it is Child B’s turn to play in the blocks area.” As a consequence, Teacher may task Child A with helping Child B build the tower again.
Alternatively, a consequence can come in the form of losing a privilege if pre-established expectations are not met. If Child C, for instance, keeps running around the classroom and climbing up bookshelves, Teacher may opt to take away his time for outdoor play.
A child can also be given a choice in terms of what consequence to take ("You could do this or that, which do you prefer?"), and this teaches the child to accept responsibility for his or her behaviour.
Either way, the consequence must be directly related to the misbehaviour, Teacher Mia stresses.
She believes time-in is more effective than time-out because it provides an opportunity for the parent or guardian to help the child self-regulate, or to check his or her behaviour and alter it accordingly. “As you talk to your child, you acknowledge his feelings and then help him think about the reasons he did the inappropriate behaviour. Isolating the child during a time-out may make him feel that he is being ignored or abandoned.”
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Tips for doing time-in
Teaching kids how to behave and act appropriately can take time. But practising time-in as a form of discipline built on respect and empathy can both teach them about proper behaviour as well as improve your relationship with them.
To be more successful in disciplining youngsters, Teacher Mia advises parents and educators to state expectations clearly. This means letting the child know what is expected of him or her at home or in the classroom by establishing a routine. Children find comfort in routine and the predictability of their days, so being consistent about the rules is key.
If your child has a meltdown, try to find a quiet place together and keep in mind the guidelines below to help both you and your child:
- Try to stay calm when the child misbehaves. Yelling or resorting to threats only worsens the situation.
- Validate the child’s feelings and help him or her work them out. Parent educator and author Bonnie Harris, M.S. Ed. counsels parents not to tell the child what he or she should do or say, and certainly to never deny or belittle the child’s feelings with questions like “Why are you crying about a thing like that?”
- Be patient. Children, especially very young ones, find it difficult to express themselves especially in the middle of a tantrum. Patience is key.
- Encourage your child to express his or her feelings. Do not blame or criticise. Instead, use encouraging statements such as the following:
- "I'd like to hear about it."
- "Tell me more about that."
- "I understand."
- "What do you think about ...?"
- "Would you like to talk about it?"
- "Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?"
- "That's interesting."
- "I'm interested."
- "Explain that to me."
Have you tried time-in with your child? Share with us how you dealt with a problem involving misbehavior and discipline.