From Time Out to Time In
by Lori Shomphe
VERY OFTEN CHILDREN "MISBEHAVE" OR EXHIBIT undesirable behavior when they need love and attention from the adults in their life. As a result, time out has failed miserably as a parenting technique. Essentially if a child is begging for attention and we respond by ignoring them not only has the child’s need for love not been met, but likely the child will continue to act out in an attempt to getting attention from their caregiver.
A great alternative to Time Out is Time In. I know just how hard it is to be kind and loving with a child when you do not love their behavior, but isn’t this the very thing we want to teach our children? When someone is struggling we should provide him or her with more support. Time Ins should be saved for the most extreme of behavior (in our house we only do Time Ins when our son has been physical with someone else).
Saving Time Ins for the behaviors that you want to deter helps your child to understand that you are very serious about stopping the behavior. Here’s what to do when your child acts out physically:
Stop their body by gently placing your hand on them and say, “Mama is going to stop your body; we need to sit and quiet our bodies for a few minutes.”
Then bring your child into your lap and say in a firm voice, “It is never okay with me for you to hit, Mama does not hit you, Daddy does not hit you and you may not hit anyone.” In saying this you are illustrating for your child the limits and expectations for your family and home. Now quietly sit with your child and take a few deep-relaxing breaths. This will both allow you to keep your temper in check but also model for your child a useful relaxation technique.
Next, say to your child: “Let’s take a few breaths together and quiet our bodies,” and take a few deep breaths together. Just as with Time Out you should use your child’s age to indicate how long to sit. For example, if your child is two years old sit for 2 minutes, if your child is four years old sit for four minutes. Once the Time In is over, tell your child how much you love them, and remind them about the behavior by saying something like, “Mama love you so much and it is never ok to hit our friends.” Then place your child back on the grounds and say, “You may join your friends when your body feels ready.” This statement gives your child permission to remain quiet for a few minutes if they need to before rejoining the activity.
I have found that some children really resist sitting in a parent’s lap. If this should be the case with your child, simply sit next to them for the duration of their Time In, but keep physical contact by holding their hand or putting your hand on their leg.
According great way to give your child the skills they need to refocus their energy is to create a peace corner. I first came across this idea in Linda Lantieri’s wonderful book, Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children.
When your child’s behavior is out of control, direct them to their peace corner. Ask if they would like some privacy or if they would like you to join them. If they want you close, take this time to snuggle up with them. Quieting your own energy will help model appropriate relaxation techniques to your child. Remember, the intention of this space is to ultimately support your child in self-regulating their own energy. After some practice your child should begin to use the space without your prompting, as well as see it as a place to go when they feel unsafe or out of control.
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