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Time-ins: What Research Says About This Discipline Method

Your child is whining, not listening, and acting like a terror. Can you relate? While your instinct may be to call a time-out, an alternative called “time-in” is what you have been looking for!

Why Use Time-In?

As an advocate for positive parenting, I believe time-ins are an effective approach in disciplining children. Why?

Time-in goes a step further than a time-out. Rather than leaving the child in a corner or chair, you are now going to help them grow a better brain. You will also teach them more acceptable behavior. 

I love time-ins is because they can be used any time and any place.  Whenever you feel a child is in need of some guidance or support.

Why Do Time-Outs Get a Bad Rap?

Issues of Abandonment

“The severe punishment and social isolation that is commonly done in the name of time-out is harmful,”says Dr. Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine.

In a 2014 piece he co-wrote for TIME, Siegel highlighted brain-imaging research that found social exclusion and physical pain trigger similar patterns of brain activity.

He also wrote that isolating a child in time-out may deny the child’s “profound need for connection,” during times of distress.

“Some varieties of time-out are appropriate, namely those that are brief and infrequent. Those that involve care, kindness and those that do not isolate a child.” Siegel says that,“ In practice, time-outs are often administered inappropriately.”

Addressing the Real Issue

Joanna Faber, New York-based co-author of “How to Talk so Kids will Listen,” said the biggest problem with timeouts is that the punishment does not address the problem.

For example, if an older child punches a younger child, the parent responds with putting him in time-out. The parent then likes to imagine that the older child is sitting in the chair thinking that she should be more patient with her younger brother. “But in actuality, that’s probably not happening,” Faber said. “They’re probably sitting in the chair, seething with resentment. It doesn’t touch the problem.”

“A better solution would be to take a timeout from the problem.” In this case Faber said, “She’d separate the kids, tell them that they’re really upset, so let’s talk about it and take a break,” she said.

“Take a timeout from the problem to reconnect, to slow it down and to take a break as opposed to banishing them is a pretty nice idea,” Faber said.

What is Time-In?

What is a time-in? How does it work and can it be an effective parenting strategy?

Time-Ins can be used when a child is having a temper tantrum, when there is a power struggle, when a child is being aggressive or non-cooperative. Or anytime a child is calling out for support!

Instead of banishing the child to a quiet place to think about what he’s done wrong, parents take the child through a process of identifying their emotions, talking about the issue and creating a resolution.

During time-in, parents are encouraged to empathize with the child’s feelings. Many times, connecting with your child is all that is needed until the storm has passed. It doesn’t mean that you must let your child continue with a behavior that is inappropriate. The time-in gives you the opportunity to really connect and then address whatever change needs to be made.

Parenting coach and therapist Bonnie Compton tells The Washington Post that this method avoids the feelings of abandonment and isolation that often accompany a time-out.

Based on the evidence what’s the best approach to time-ins vs. timeouts?

First of all, research suggests that when determining an effective disciplinary strategy for their own children, caregivers should ask themselves:

  • Does the parent feel calm and clear? It is important that the parent is clear with how they are wishing to discipline their child. Also, how they are going to teach their child appropriate behavior. Discipline should be brief and model functional coping strategies.
  • Does the parent intend to stop a behavior that is within the child’s control? For example, if the child is acting out of fatigue, overstimulation, or hunger?
  • Is the discipline strategy predictable and consistent for the child?  Inconsistent, unpredictable discipline is related to an increased incidence of mental health issues in children.
  • Does the disciplinary measure deescalate the situation or increase a cycle of escalation? 

In a Nutshell

Why we love time-in is that it is a process that you can take a child through for any type of situation they may need guidance and support in!

In a nutshell, time-out = Child learns a behavior is unacceptable and sits in a corner for 3 minutes. 

Time-in= Child learns a behavior is unacceptable. They also learn self-regulation skills and taking responsibility for their behavior. They will also learn acceptable ways to handle a situation. Plus their connection with you is not  broken and they are not left feeling bad about themselves.


I have been a professional nanny working with children of all ages for over 15 years. My work has taken me all over the globe and I have had many amazing adventures with the families that I have worked with, all of which has taught me a great deal about how to make parenting less stressful.

I helped create Mothers Lifestyle in order to share parenting tips and secrets that I learned along the way, as well as to provide life-saving tools and advice from the world’s leading experts that I rely on every day in my professional life.

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