Whether referred to as “the naughty chair” or “corner time,” time outs have long been used by parents and caregivers to discipline kids. But are time outs really all that effective?
Leading child development experts, like Dr. Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, are of the opinion that time outs are actually more harmful than effective for kids.
“Even when presented in a patient and loving manner, time-outs teach them that when they make a mistake, or when they are having a hard time, they will be forced to be by themselves—a lesson that is often experienced, particularly by young children, as rejection,” wrote Siegel in a Time Magazine op-ed. And as child therapist Bonnie Compton told the Washington Post, the negative emotions a time out can bring up may be even worse for anxious kids and lead them to lash out.
Research suggests that most parents are doing time outs wrong anyway, with more than three-quarters of parents in a 2017 study making missteps like allowing phones during the activity.
So what should parents turn to instead of a time out? The simple answer is a time in: an affirming technique that many adoption circles have long advocated for.
Watch the video above to see why time ins work better for most are worth trying with your kids.
What is a time in?
Simply put, time ins are a calming period of togetherness, after a kid misbehaves. As opposed to isolating the child, the adult giving the time in sits quietly with the kid. For a predetermined amount of time, they may talk about their feelings or the incident, or practice an emotional-regulation exercise like mindful breathing.
Shifting the focus to self-awareness rather than managing what can feel like rejection is the reason why some adoption agencies may advise caregivers to explore time ins, especially with kids whose early life experiences of trauma and loss have impacted their mental health.
“Time ins should be used to connect with your child and address what needs to change,” the Buzz60 video states.
Counsellor and parent Emily Kircher-Morris found time ins to be a great learning tool for her four-year-old daughter. After one meltdown, Kircher-Morris described for mental health community website Good Therapy how she pretending her fingers were birthday cake candles and asked her daughter to blow them out. “I modelled this several more times before she was able join and eventually calmed herself enough to try to talk about what was happening,” she wrote.
If you’re looking to practice time ins, PopSugar advises parents to set a timer for no less than five minutes and no more than half an hour. That’s a decent chunk of time for a child to work on regulating their emotions, in most cases, and not so long that it can’t be done multiple times a day.
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