Time-In - How to connect emotionally with your child
We have all heard about time-out when dealing with behaviours that we don’t want to see from our child. There is a time and a place for time-out but what I have learnt is that using time-out too much and on its own leads to power struggles and some challenging emotional meltdowns.
Warning signs that time-out isn’t working include:
- You notice you are using time-out daily
- Your child is undermining you by running away
- Your child is repeatedly asking when he/she can move from time-out
- You are using time-out for the same behaviour over and over again
- You are feeling angry and hopeless when you use time-out
So what if you substitute time-out with a positive parenting tool called Time-In? This is an alternative behaviour management approach that gives your child time to process his/her emotions and learn how to regulate them.
Here is a personal example of how Time-In can work:
Juggling the needs of a toddler and a baby often result in anger and frustration at peak periods of the day. One morning recently I was trying to time everything so my baby could have a morning nap before getting my toddler to daycare. My toddler was feeling ignored and started to throw blocks at me while I was feeding my baby. I asked him to stop and tried to distract him by asking him to go and get me a fire truck so we could play after the feed. His frustration began to escalate as he continued to throw blocks at me.
I followed these steps:
1. I paid attention to my own emotions (frustration and stress) and those of my child (anger, boredom and frustration). He changed from smiling and playing independently to pouting, and his body language was showing me he was trying to get my attention by pulling away.
2. I waited without saying anything for him to express his frustration (he tried to lash out and hit me). I sat next to him with a neutral tone with my baby in tow.
3. I named the feelings and encouraged my toddler to express his feelings by sitting next to him and not saying much. I knew his frustration could turn into a tantrum so I provided guidance on what to do with the feelings before they escalated into misbehaviour. "You seem frustrated bubs. I am going to take away the blocks and just sit next to you while you have some space. You can hold your fire truck while we sit here". He sat with his back to me holding his fire truck. After 3 minutes he asked if I wanted to play.
4. I explored solutions to the problem and redirected him to what we could DO rather than what he was feeling. "I am going to finish feeding your sister and then we can play fire trucks all the way to the car". This had allowed him enough time and space to calm down and agree to the plan.
The outcome might have been the same if I had sent him to the time-out space for 2 minutes, but I wouldn’t have felt as good about it!