Creative Child

How to Use Time-In as a Discipline Alternative to Time-Out

by Rebecca Eanes


But What If…

  1. My child is having a tantrum and is hitting me or screaming? If your calm demeanor, tone, and words do not soothe your child enough to be brought into your lap or a safe space, then you can move the child to safe place and stand back. The key is to remain emotionally and physically available rather than just ignoring. “I won’t let you hit me so I’m going to stand over here to keep myself safe, but when you’re ready for a hug, I’ll be right here.” Some kids need a bit of space to work it out, and that’s perfectly okay. The difference is respecting the need for space versus forcing it.
  2. My child refuses to sit in time-in? If you truly make this a calming space and a connecting time, your child will have little reason to resist a time-in. It may take a few tries for them to trust it, especially if they’re used to time-outs, but keep trying. You can use a gentle bear hug hold while you rock and sing softly or speak gently to help calm your child down. You might say, “You can either sit in on this pillow or stand right here and jump up and down. Which do you choose?” For some kids, movement helps them calm down faster. You’ll know what your kid needs. As long as they reach emotional regulation and go through the process of making amends and learning better skills, it matters little how you get there.
  3. My child won’t offer any ideas during the problem-solving phase? If they are cooperative but can’t really think of anything, go ahead and pitch some ideas. If they’re outright refusing to cooperate, they haven’t calmed enough. “We will stay here until you’re ready” or “It looks like you’re having a hard time getting calmed down. It’s time to leave (or nap).”
  4. I have other kids to take care of and I can’t sit in time-in? If at all possible, try to give your child at least a few minutes of your time because if she’s acting out, she really needs your help. Once you get the hang of time-in and she knows the drill, you can leave her in the calm down space while you attend to the other children and then go back for the teaching/problem-solving phase when she is ready.
  5. I’m not at home? I’ve had time-in at the grocery store in aisle 5 and in a parking lot of a restaurant. You might consider putting a calm down travel bag in your purse for this purpose. Where ever you can have a bit of privacy works just fine.

I know this may feel like it’s going against everything you thought you needed to do to discipline your kid, but I invite you to try it for a couple of weeks. I think you’ll be surprised.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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