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All kids act out. The key is how you respond.

Time-Ins or Time-Outs? What's the difference? And why does it matter?

Most parents are familiar with using the “time-out” method for handling their child’s challenging behavior. Using a time-out stops negative behavior and creates short-term peace. However, while it’s very true that using time-outs is a significant improvement over physical discipline, this doesn’t mean that using them is the best approach. Time-outs don’t help children learn how to effectively manage and navigate through negative emotions and can impact a child’s confidence and self-esteem.

Leading child development experts are increasingly emphasizing “time-ins” as a better way to help children handle their unhappy feelings. Children copy how we treat them, then treat themselves and others the same way. Time-outs are isolating, leaving a child to handle their powerful feelings on their own, cut off from their parents’ care and affection. This diminishes their ability to learn how to be compassionate and understanding of themselves and others when confronted with conflicts or adversity.

Children who can regulate and manage their emotions effectively show stronger resilience at difficult tasks, demonstrate a higher likelihood of success in school, and lead happier and more fulfilled lives. (Read more on this topic here:

So, how does a Time-In work? When your child is struggling or acting out, what do you do?

  • First off, make sure your child is safe – along with yourself and anyone else nearby;

  • Once any physical risk has been minimized, get down to their eye level. You want to communicate to your child that you acknowledge their feelings, ensure that they feel understood, and will be there with them to resolve the situation;

  • Your child may need several minutes to express their feelings. Be ready to give them a hug or other physical affection

As they begin to express themselves, respond keeping the following S.M.A.R.T. goals in mind:

Stay positive: In difficult situations, when you are able to stay calm and positive, your child is more likely to be receptive to your help and easier to manage.

Model kindness: Guidance and kindness are not mutually exclusive. When you guide with kindness, children will develop an internal compass based on compassion toward themselves and others.

Acknowledge feelings: Make yourself available to hear your child's feelings and try to understand his experience - especially when he is unhappy and struggling. You can begin by simply saying, "I can see you are really upset..." By taking his feelings seriously, you help him understand himself, trust your relationship, and instead of acting out his feelings in negative ways, learn to turn to caring relationships for comfort and support.

Regulate behavior: It is always important to step in to manage your child's unsafe, immature, or out of control behavior. Keep in mind that the most important thing your child wants is to feel lovable and loved by you, especially when she experiences disappointment or frustration.

Time-in together: It is always best to offer solutions to problems that bring you and your child closer, rather than isolating her or withdrawing your love and approval. Your love and approval builds positive self-esteem, and teaches him that problems can be resolved within a caring relationship, instead of isolation or with negativity and force.




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