The time-in technique

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 27, 2008, but I love the message it offers to parents about how positive discipline dovetails with responding with sensitivity in observing what underlying needs children may be expressing when they act out.

it-must-be-love-6-138382-mRecently there has been a discussion about time-out technique on a Yahoo group. A mother was sharing about how effective she finds the time-out sessions to teach her 18 month old not to bite mommy. Lots of people were interested and wanted to learn more about the technique.

I believe in gentle discipline. I remember reading an inspirational blog post by Angela White at Breastfeeding 123:

I talked to a friend who used what she called “time in.” Time in involved getting down on my daughter’s level and holding her if she wanted that, and talking about the kind of behavior that was acceptable and not acceptable. I realized that many times when my child was acting up, she was really looking for more attention from me. It was a lot better for both of us if I gave her positive attention in the first place, and refrained from negative attention like yelling and shaming.

My daughter has recently started pulling my hair. Every time she does this, I tell her that it hurts me and that it’s not okay to pull someone else’s hair.

I also paid attention to the times when she pulls my hair. The result is obvious: She’s either tired or sleepy. She wants more attention from me. Maybe she wants me to give her a hug, maybe she wants me to breastfeed her or maybe she wants me to play with me.

Had I used the time-out technique, she’d only be more upset.

I believe that by being respectful to our little ones — by questioning why they are behaving like this — we can sort out half of the problem. Time-outs may change their behavior, but they will not resolve the underlying problem or address our children’s needs.

Author: API Blog

APtly Said, Formerly API Speaks launched in April of 2008 as part of Attachment Parenting International's larger effort to offer interactive content through their newly-redesigned web site: All contributors to APtly Said, as with so many of API's staff, are volunteers who donate their time and energy to promote Attachment Parenting world wide.

4 thoughts on “The time-in technique”

  1. Very true! Even with my toddler, the times when she acts out are when she’s tired, hungry, needs a diaper change, etc. When her needs are met, she’s very open to me trying to teach her in a positive manner. I believe children want to please their parents, but that their needs must be met first.

    From my experience, at least part of the problem is that parents want to change their discipline techniques but either don’t know how or don’t trust that anything less than punishment will work. If a family has been spanking their children for generations, that’s all a mother knows in terms of discipline. She may want to stop, and she sees time-outs as the next best thing.

    Time-outs do work in the short-term, for a little while, but they are not a long-term solution. Parents who do time-outs, just as those who spank, are teaching their children to fear their parents. Those parents who are the model for relationships all the rest of their lives. Also, time-outs don’t work for long. Children won’t learn not to do the behavior, just to avoid getting caught.

    AP, to me, is all about teaching children about healthy relationships. Time-outs don’t teach about healthy relationships. They’re a “quick fix” for parents that, just like all the other quick fixes in life, don’t really make it easier for more than the present moment.

  2. I completely agree Isil. I honestly don’t think timeouts would work with littlepixie, she would get hysterical. But sitting down quietly with her, maybe nursing, maybe just rubbing her hair, this seems to re-centre her and helps her process what she is upset about.

  3. I use time outs only for hitting or biting, and then we talk about it immediately after the time out — why it is wrong, it hurts, it makes me sad, etc. Is this timeouts being used appropriately, or anyone have other methods for hitting/biting (it’s only occasional, and he is well aware that he gets timeouts for those behaviors)?

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