Time Out vs. Time In: Nurturing Positive Behavior in Children

While both time-outs and time-ins aim to address behaviors — its crucial you implement these strategies consciously so they can support your child, not traumatize them. Learn how in this article.

Parenting is a beautiful journey of nurturing our children towards becoming compassionate, responsible, and emotionally aware individuals. As we navigate this path, discipline becomes a vital aspect of guiding our children in how best to manage their emotions and actions. 

Two well-known  approaches that often come into play are "time-out" and "time-in." While both aim to address behavior, they take very different routes towards achieving this goal. Let's explore the difference between these two approaches and how they can impact our children's growth, development, and consciousness. 

Time Out: Designed As Break to Reflect, Yet Creates Disconnect

"Time out" is a discipline strategy where a child is temporarily removed from a situation, often to a quiet or isolated place, as a consequence for their behavior. The underlying idea is to provide a moment of reflection and separation from the stimulating environment, giving the child a chance to regain composure.

When time outs were first created, it was out of necessity. Time outs were a necessary tool to give parents the space that they needed to be able to regulate. This space allowed them to distance themselves from their children so that, when triggered, they didn’t hit or otherwise physically punish them for undesirable behaviors. 

Unfortunately, research has shown that this approach (while perhaps regulating for the parents) can lead to feelings of isolation, fear, or rejection in the child. It was not designed as a form of punishment, but rather as a moment of reflection. That intention was no longer effective and as parenting practices have evolved, so has the need for deeper connection and understanding towards our children. 

Time-In: Connection and Teaching

"Time-in" is a contrasting approach that focuses on staying connected with the child during moments of difficulty. Rather than isolating the child, time-in involves remaining present and engaged while addressing the behavior.

Just as everything else evolves, the parenting practice of time outs needed to evolve, which is why people who are advocating for emotional safety in the child parent relationship do not advocate leaving a child to regulate on their own in a time out. 

Neuroscience has shown us over and again that a child requires the support of a regulated adult in order for their brain and body to regulate. 

Time ins can be effective in the following ways:

  • Building Emotional Intelligence: By staying connected, parents can help their child understand and express their emotions more effectively.

  • Teaching Problem-Solving: Engaging in dialogue during challenging moments allows parents to guide the child towards finding solutions and better choices.

  • Nurturing True Self-Reflection: Time ins encourage children to consider their actions and how they affect others, promoting empathy and accountability.

  • Time ins require active communication and empathy: They provide an opportunity for parents to model healthy emotional responses and show children that they are valued and supported even in difficult times.

The above examples plus many more long-term benefits towards the well-being of children is why we at Conscious Mommy firmly advocate for a time in. 

A time in provides space for the child to practice regulating. A time in provides a momentary break from whatever the situation is that prompted the need for reflection in the first place. 

A time in doesn’t need to be a consequence for misbehavior, but rather, can be viewed as a launching pad for connection in stressed out, difficult moments. 

Remember, the goal is to guide children towards understanding their actions, learning from their mistakes, and developing positive behaviors. All discipline strategies should be implemented with patience, empathy, and consistency.

Ultimately, the journey of disciplining is a shared one, and by navigating it with love and understanding, we can help our children become confident, compassionate, and resilient individuals.

Join our vibrant online community to exchange stories, seek advice, and celebrate the small victories that come with parenting. Together, we can create a space where conscious discipline can be seen as opportunities for growth, understanding, and connection. So, let's come together, share our insights, and navigate the beautiful journey of parenthood with open hearts and open arms.