Turn Bad Behaviors Around: Time In Vs. Time Out

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You’ve just brought the kids home from school, and before you can take off your shoes, there’s already a fight. When your little darlings turn into wild animals who hit, kick, and bite—or just yell the most hurtful things they can think of at each other—the standard practice for many years was a time out. Whether this involves a special chair, a corner, a song, or a set time limit, the idea was to separate the child from the situation and from others until he or she calmed down.

But for many parents, time outs just don’t work. They cause more fights, leave the child frustrated and angry, or turn into a battleground to “make” the time out happen. Many parents seek the help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist to figure out how to make time outs work better—or, to identify new strategies to help their child succeed. One tool that child psychologists use is the time in.

A time in accomplishes many of the same goals as a time out. The child is removed from the situation with the goal of improving behavior. The duration is short, and the child can return to having fun afterward. However, while a time out is usually done alone, a time in is done with the parent or caregiver present—both physically and emotionally. What does this mean? During a time in, you support your child by being next to him physically and listening to his words and feelings. Some kids aren’t ready to talk right away, but others can be gently coached to express feelings that came up during the conflict. For example, a child who is sent to “time in” for hitting her brother is not lectured on how hitting is bad; rather, the parent helps her to express the feelings of anger, frustration, or annoyance that were underneath that bad behavior. Sometimes, your child may surprise you and disclose that a big problem at school, with another parent, or with friends is really the issue that is bothering them the most. Praise children  for expressing emotions appropriately and make sure that they know how much you appreciate all the times they show good behavior.

For small children or those who struggle to express themselves verbally, drawing or play-acting with toys  can be helpful. This is similar to how children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch looks, and works very much the same way. Children are guided through the process of making amends and thinking about what could be done better next time; for example, apologizing to the brother and or practicing coping skills when angry. The specifics will vary from child to child and from incident to incident, but the goal is to express, connect, and make better choices in the future.

If you would like to learn more about positive parenting strategies, including the benefits of “time in,” contact a skilled psychologist in Colorado. Dr. Lazarus has helped many parents find the best ways to connect with their children, building them strong to face all the hurdles life throws their way!


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